For those of you who are familiar with the 1980 film "Xanadu," you know that it is a campy, leg-warmer, cornball fest featuring Olivia Newton-John roller-skating off into beams of neon light, no less. For those of you who like that about it (I happen to), you have probably determined that it’s so bad, it’s fabulous.
And maybe you also happen to like the soundtrack performed by Electric Light Orchestra and sung in Olivia’s Australian accent. Well, luckily enough for those of us who like camp, roller-skates, legwarmers and ELO, DOMA Theatre Company has put on its own rendition of the 2007 Broadway Musical inspired by and affectionately farcical of the film. Go forth. Have fun!
While the film focuses on the character of Sonny Malone, a down-and-out artist from LA’s very own Venice, CA, the musical makes some pretty drastic departures. An entirely separate (and arguably more entertaining) plot is developed to accommodate the musical’s heightened interest in Clio, the ancient Greek muse who descends from Mt. Olympus to aid Sonny in his quest for artistic fulfillment.
For Sonny Malone, and at the cusp of the ’80s, the zenith of artistic achievement -- the seamless fusion of all the arts into one transcendent space! -- is disco.... on roller-skates.... while wearing sparkly shorts that leave little to the imagination. (So much hairy man-leg!)
The shift to Clio as protagonist amps up the Greek mythology component. Clio’s eight muse sisters (two of whom are costumed band members, another two of whom are performed in drag) send Clio down to Earth for a routine tour-de-inspiration. To disguise herself, Clio takes on the identity of Australian roller-girl, Kira.
The muses continue to play a major, meddling role throughout the play, with two particularly jealous sisters scheming to get Clio/ Kira caught by Zeus in the forbidden acts of loving a mortal and creating one’s own art. Much of the rest of the plot will remain familiar for fans of the original.
DOMA’s production of "Xanadu," though limited by its size (that of the cast, space, and budget), makes full use of its assets: a talented cast, a great band, an apparent love to entertain, and a wonderfully fun musical with which to do so. The theater was packed, and though one of the muses at one point exclaims, "This is like children’s theatre for 40-year-old gay people," the seats were filled with families, groups of teenaged girls, elderly couples and everyone in between, which, yeah, included "40-year-old gay people."
A glance around the theater confirmed that everyone was having fun and that many were enjoying the cotton candy on rainbow glow-sticks available for purchase in the lobby; the only prerequisite for this performance is the desire to be entertained.
DOMA does much to make this performance its own, making many Los Angeles and DOMA-specific jokes and making light of its limitations. (Double casting, for example, becomes a source of humor.) The costumes are vibrant and beautifully made and, though dancing isn’t the cast’s strong suit, there are some nice numbers choreographed by Angela Todaro and improved by the presence of two dancers.
Lovlee Carroll is superb in the lead role as Clio/ Kira, with a Broadway-quality voice and charm that reaches the theater’s back row. Matt O’Neill does well as Sonny Malone, but the character is significantly dumbed down from the movie version, leaving the performance a bit flat.
The chemistry between the two could perhaps be better, but some of what’s unconvincing about their love is integral to the musical. Upon falling in love with Sonny, Clio muses upon why he -- not Shakespeare, not DaVinci, not Picasso, but Sonny Malone -- should be the mortal to capture her heart. I, too, cannot imagine why that should be the case, but that’s part of the humor.
Danny Maguire, Sonny’s flaky business partner and a one-time Clio inspiree, is wonderfully performed by David Michael Trevino, who, particularly in smooth dance numbers like "Whenever You’re Away From Me," successfully channels Gene Kelly, the Hollywood Great that originally filled the role.
Other noteworthy performances are those of Veronica Scheyving and Brittany Rodin, playing Melpomene and Calliope, the two scheming muses. Both have wonderful voices and a great sense of comedy. "Evil Woman" was a standout number featuring the two.
Throughout the performance, audience members were singing along, dancing in their seats and, by the final number, out of their seats altogether. For the finale, with only 11 people on stage (compared to the hundreds in the film’s finale), DOMA Theatre Co. made up in leg what it lacked in numbers: Sonny came out wearing what was more or less a sparkly diaper, drawing much laughter from the audience and making the short-shorts of the original seem timid.
Overall, the production accomplished its goal: an entertaining celebration and parody of a 1980’s cult classic. If that’s right up your alley, then go, grab the family, call up a date, bring some friends -- you’re guaranteed to have a good time.