“Xanadu” – Arizona Theatre Company

This review aired on KBAQ January 6, 2014


Arizona Theatre Company, Center Stage, Herberger Theater Center
Phoenix, AZ

With tongue firmly planted in its gregarious cheek, the musical “Xanadu” explodes in sheer delight on the Herberger Theater Center stage as it affectionately lambastes the 1970s in a dazzlingly entertaining Arizona Theatre Company staging by David Ira Goldstein.

The musical is crafted by book writer Douglas Carter Beane from the original movie but he’s beefed up the plot to reference Greek mythology.  The silly and coy story is campy fun that works because it never turns the plot into stupid silliness that goes too far.  And Goldstein gathered a brilliant cast who sing and dance with professional sheen while creating distinctive characters that are full of delightful malarkey.

The story parallels the movie but includes mythology references that add a veneer of whimsy to the silly romance.  Sonny falls for Australian mortal Kira, who is really the Greek goddess Clio.  They banter about singing the show’s ebullient song hits as Clio’s mythological sisters, played by both men and women in this sexually ambiguous show, parade about in colorfully elaborate costumes doing choreographer Kathryn Van Meter’s joyously clever dances.  Danny, an oldster, has an unused theater he built years ago that Sonny hopes to turn into a roller disco.  Not much story but it’s just the skimpy framework on which to hang the joyful entertainment.

Goldstein’s brilliantly showy production features colorful sets, florescent lighting effects, and vividly playful costumes.  And the cast glides around the stage on roller skates here and there throughout the show that adds an athletic mockery that is hilarious to watch.

On top of these physical elements is a remarkable cast headed by Dane Stokinger as Sonny who parades about adding wild merriment whenever he’s on stage while his real life wife, Jessica Skerritt, sizzles as Kira/Clio.  These two dance, sing and act with humorous abandon and comic charm.  Stokinger will be replaced by Kyle Sorrell beginning tonight.

Jeff Steitzer is Danny but he has just as much pizzazz as his younger cast mates.  Of the flawless ensemble, glasses wearing Christine Riippi and Lisa Estridge stand out while the two chorus men, Michael Feldman and Richard Peacock, are outstanding.  The small orchestra plays exuberantly.

“Xanadu” is a five stars out of five winner.  Oh, this isn’t a great musical but if you want diverting theater, you can’t miss.  “Xanadu” continues through January 19.  For tickets, call the Arizona Theatre Company box office at 602-256-6995 or order tickets online at www.arizonatheatre.org.

Grade: A