Xanadu Gets a Rave Review!

Written by DSM Columnists on Wednesday, April 7, 2010 at 9:20 AM

Theater review: Summer Musicals' 'Xanadu' beats Broadway version

11:22 PM CDT on Tuesday, April 6, 2010
By LAWSON TAITTE / The Dallas Morning News

They've turned lots of old movies into musicals. Xanadu sets the record for improvement; it's the best musical from the worst film.

The 1980 Olivia Newton-John stinkeroo did produce a lot of hits by Electric Light Orchestra's Jeff Lynne and the star's favorite songwriter, John Farrar. Two seasons ago, a stage version opened on Broadway with a new book by comic playwright Douglas Carter Beane (who penned Give It Up! for the Dallas Theater Center earlier this year). It was a surprise hit with critics and audiences alike. The national tour hit the Dallas Summer Musicals on Tuesday with an explosive bang.

This company belongs to the growing number of tours that actually play better on the road than they did on the Great White Way. Many Broadway producers seem to feel they must cast names recognizable to New York audiences, and that's a limited pool of talent. You can't really call many of these performers stars in the old sense, and the shows surely aren't tailored to them. Fortunately for us out here in the sticks, the producers feel free to use less-familiar faces, sometimes much more able in their roles, on tour.

Thus, the gorgeous Anika Larsen, as the muse Clio who falls in love with a California painter, really looks like a goddess and sounds like one, too. As the clueless artist, Danny, Max von Essen is funnier and more consistent in his Valley Boy accent (and a more secure singer) than his Broadway predecessor.

The superiority in this production continues pretty much all the way down the line. Natasha Yvette Williams and Annie Golden are especially delicious as the comic villains. As the aging owner of the building Danny wants to turn into a roller derby, Larry Williams turns a dreary role into a lovable one.

Xanadu played in the smallest house on Broadway, but it feels liberated, rather than dwarfed, in the immensity of Fair Park Music Hall. The audience catches all of Beane's well-crafted in-jokes. This is one self-reflective musical that doesn't take itself too seriously, or seriously at all.

Thanks to Christopher Ashley's witty direction and Dan Knechtges' inventive choreography, Xanadu might just be the best time you have at a musical this season.

PLAN YOUR LIFE: Through April 18 at Fair Park Music Hall. Runs 100 mins. $15 to $71. Ticketmaster at 214-631-2787, www.ticketmaster.com

To see the review on The Dallas Morning News' website, follow this link: http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/ent/stories/DN-xanadu08_0408gd.State.Edition1.41785f7.html

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