Xanadu is one of those films you either love or you hate, me I loved it, especially five year old me who must of watched it every single day. I loved Olivia; she was one of the very first Australian Actors I had seen in a Hollywood movie. For a young girl growing up in the 80’s the dream that I could too be an actor seemed like a reality. Not going to lie, her outfits also had a lot to do with it; leg warmers and roller skates were what my dreams were made of.
Flash forward to 2023 and Ikigai Entertainment is once again asking us to dream of that place. A place where we can laugh, smile and escape… a place where the creation of art and the pursuit of love are the only things that matter.
The year is 1980 and somewhere along Venice beach pier, we find Sonny Malone (Kurt Russo) a budding young artist frustrated with his own creation, a mural depicting the 9 muses of Greek Mythology. Becoming so infuriated he tears up his work, having given up he storms off stage with the intentions of ending it all. (These artistic types are always such tortured/melodramatic souls) Unbeknown to him, his painting comes alive and Lead Muse Clio (Lacinda Fisk) hatches a plan; she will inspire Sonny to achieve the greatest artistic creation of all times...
With plans under way Clio disguises herself as Kira, embracing some leg warmers, roller skates and an Australian accent, she arrives (via wheels) just in time to rescue Sonny from his fate, Kira begins her Magic and Sonny reveals his dream…. to open a roller disco.
With Sonny inspired, Kira finds herself one step closer to receiving the ultimate gift from Zeus, the reward of Xanadu “The gift so grand, that none of us know what it is”. This infuriates her older sisters, Melpone (Tanya Boyle) and Calliope (Sabrina Kirkham) and they plot to cause Clio’s banishment by breaking one of Zeus’ rules: A Muse must not fall in love with a mortal.
Utter chaos follows which is bound to happen when mere mortals mix with deities. Absurdities, sight gags, gods and mortals zipping around on skates, throw in a love spell and hell of lot of ELO and what you get is 90 mins of pure fun and your not going to want to miss out.
Xanadu the Musical is a smart, loving satire honoring the cult movie classic. It’s a parody of itself, poking fun at the films ridiculousness (remember this all takes place in one day) without demeaning it in anyway.
Kira: Here we are sketching renderings, savoring life and singing pop rock. And we’ve wasted the whole afternoon. There is no time left, no time at all”
Sonny: Why, there’s plenty of time Restore a theater in an hour? Sure, I can do that.”
There’s a warm nostalgia for the 80’s, (When Sonny places a call to enquire about the venue, Russo draws out the dialing, reminiscing of the time it took to call someone on a rotary phone), hell they even take a jab at themselves, announcing the lack of a character being on stage as they are doubling up on roles, here the silly is celebrated.
The talented cast includes triple threat?... quadruple threat performer Lacinda Fisk who is the founder and creative director of Ikigai Entertainment, she’s also producer and leading lady. Ms Fisk is a rare ingénue who is as funny as she is beautiful, and she sings gloriously, too.
Kurt Russo’s Sonny, may not be as bright as the colours in his murals, but Russo plays him beautifully as a sweet, naive kid who just wants to make it in the world doing what he loves the most... creating art. There's a great deal of sensitivity to his character.
Majority of the nights laughs came courtesy of Clio’s wicked sister muses, Calliope (Sabrina Kirkham) and Melpomene (Tanya Boyle). Their theme song Evil Woman is a highlight, dressed like the Sanderson sister’s and asking us to join them in mean spirited melody, Kirkham scats the shrieky guitar riffs while Boyle sings the chorus with power. These two separately, are both criminally funny. As a team they are unbeatable.
One of the best lines of the night had to be “This is like children’s theatre for 40-year-old gay people!” explains why I enjoyed it so much, I was their target audience.
As for the rest of the ensamble cast, I have to give each and everyone of them a special mention. Alexis Hutchinson, Carla Venezia, Vincent Huynh, Louis Vinciguerra (who also had a lovely tap dance number as young Danny – “When ever your away from me”) and Alexander Morgan. They were a very energetic and talented bunch of people, all having their own strengths and being skilled in so many various roles from Muses to Sirens, gods and goddesses, they were more than just back up singers and dancers. Director Meg Day has wisely allowed them to be in on the joke and yet in character — they were over the top, melodramatic but still convincing and so very likable – which is a tricky thing to do and shows how talented they are, knowing when to give their all but also knowing when and how to tone it back.
The band lead by musical director Nerissa Cavaliere was tight, consisting of just four members, the sound seemed larger then life. I’ve listened to that soundtrack on repeat and I swear I could have been listening to the record itself (shhh 80’s no cd’s or spotify here)
Xanadu is the companies debut production and I was so impressed with the over all quality. I myself have had the experience of seeing this production on Broadway (The wonderful Whoopie Goldberg in the role of Melpomene) and can hands down say I enjoyed this production so much more. I can’t wait to see what else they have instore
This isn’t a big budgeted production and the team was able to use this to their advantage, laying on the kitche thick and fast. Don’t be expecting to walk away from this play having some great insight (though there is the hidden questioning of the importance that creativity and art has on a human) but the fact that this play is just so damn enjoyable is its own reward.
It is the funniest and most joyous production I have seen in a very long time and I challenge anybody to not crack a smile at the campy absurdity of it all. I was in tears with laughter at one of the most glorious exit scenes I’ve ever bared witness too, I don’t want to give it away but what I can say is that there was a Pegasus involved. Also once a Cyclops, Medusa and a Centaur have sung ELO, the experience is forever ingrained. I truly hope that everyone who reads this review will skate over to the theatre and see the show immediately.
Open your eyes and see,
what they have made is real.
We are in Xanadu !!!
(We dreamed of it and Ikigai offered it!!!)