‘Xanadu’ will hurt your funnybone

September 17, 2013

By David Hayes

Musical pokes fun at Olivia Newton-John, the 1980s and itself

I’ve chuckled at some funny moments in Village Theatre productions. Even some of their dramas have brought a tear to my eye.

But never have I laughed so hard that I cried as I did when watching the latest musical, “Xanadu.”

By Mark Kitaoka/Property Village Theatre The cast of Village Theatre’s musical ‘Xanadu’ sings the title song.

By Mark Kitaoka/Property Village Theatre
The cast of Village Theatre’s musical ‘Xanadu’ sings the title song.

Never having seen the movie of the same name staring Olivia Newton-John and Gene Kelly, I think made for a more enjoyable experience. I never knew what to expect next while knowing only the basics — the musical is a tongue-in-cheek tribute to a cheesy ‘80’s movie about a Greek muse who intends to inspire, only to fall in love with a down-on-his-luck artist who wants to create a roller disco.

Village Theatre regular Jessica Skerritt (“The Producers” and “Million Dollar Quartet”) shines in the role of Clio, who’s soaring vocals will have you asking by the end, “Olivia who?” Her paramour Sonny Malone is Dane Stokinger, returning to Issaquah after staring in Village Theatre’s original, “Trails” and the initial run of “Million Dollar Quartet” as Elvis. Stokinger’s own impressive voice and impeccable comedic timing provide the heart of the musical.

Jeff Stietzer gets the unenviable task of filling Kelly’s shoes in the role of Danny, the developer who lost his way from love due to the lure of money. This Broadway and Village Theatre vet proves he’s still got the moves to keep up with his younger counterparts.

While every cast member is given something to do to leave an indelible image, most notable has to be Lisa Estridge’s eldest muse Melpomene and Village Theatre newcomer Christine Riippi, as Calliope. With their plot against Clio and Estridge’s belting out a riff on the recognizable “Evil Woman,” let’s just say you’ll never look at a high-five the same way again.

In fact, the musical’s comedy is so rapid-fire with inside jokes, visual gags and verbal puns, it’s best not to let the cat out of the bag and let the audience experience them organically. Zeus’s mode of transportation on Mount Olympus had to divine the biggest laugh of the night.

A special nod goes to longtime Village Theatre choreographer Kathryn Van Meter, who succeeds in putting roller skates on dancers and actors and creating a dance routine that looks organic. Skerritt practically has to live in them the entire production.

Few productions, for that matter, incorporate orchestra pit musicians into the proceedings. Turning up the cheese factor past 10, conductor Tim Symmons, rocking a mullet Billy Ray Cyrus would have died for in the ‘80s, leads a musical accompaniment played almost exclusively on a Casio keyboard. He steps out from behind tickling the plastic ivories to shred on the keytar against guitarist Mike Muir, rockin’ a spiked mullet of his own.

Some productions are renowned for breaking the fourth wall with actors addressing the audience. “Xanadu” shatters that wall with audience participation to hilarious affect. And if you attend the musical on a Friday night, expect to be invited up onstage for a dance along with the cast after the encore. That’s right — after the deserved standing ovation from the audience at the end, the cast keeps right on going.

Beware: The musical’s most recognizable hits “Strange Magic,” “Have You Never Been Mellow” and “Xanadu” may get stuck in your head long after the show is over.

It’s hard to imagine, however, having a more giddy time at a Village Theatre production this year.

If you go


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One Response to “‘Xanadu’ will hurt your funnybone”

  1. Ann on September 19th, 2013 3:34 pm

    Having seen both, it is even funnier when one has seen the movie. There are plenty of direct dialogue and other references that are clearly meant as a nod and a wink. The musical plot is different enough that we felt like we were seeing a different story. This is a fabulous production, and a reminder that there is lays room in the theater for genuine musical comedy.

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