Seacoast Rep

Roller skates, disco and Greek mythology make for ‘silly bliss’ in ‘Xanadu’

August 08. 2018 1:40PM
In a musical based on the campy cult movie “Xanadu,” Alyssa Dumas plays a Greek muse who disguises herself as a mortal in roller skates and leg warmers to help inspire a struggling chalk artist. (Ben Bagley)

PORTSMOUTH — Here’s a recipe for “silly bliss:” Take a Hollywood flop that became a Broadway hit, stir in Greek mythology and roller disco, add music by two pop greats and turn it over to The Madmen of Oopsy Daisy to direct at the Seacoast Repertory Theatre.

“Xanadu,” the musical comedy based on the 1980 movie romance starring Olivia Newton John and Gene Kelly, runs through Aug. 26 at the Rep’s stage at 125 Bow St. Show times are Thursdays at 7:30 p.m., Fridays at 8 p.m., Saturdays at 2 and 8 p.m., and Sundays at 2 p.m.

The stage musical is an affectionate parody of the movie which while not a box-office hit featured a soundtrack that became a million-seller with hits including Newton-John’s “Magic” and Electric Light Orchestra’s “I’m Alive.”

In the hands of directors Ben Hart and Brandon James — the Oopsy Daisy duo that have put their stamp on several recent Seacoast Rep productions — “Xanadu” promises to be a riot of visuals and movement.

“It is a good, fun, wacky time the entire way through,” said Alyssa Dumas, who plays the lead role of Clio, a Greek Muse.

In the story, Clio descends to Venice Beach to inspire struggling chalk artist Sonny Malone. To disguise herself as a mortal, she adopts the name Kira and puts on leg warmers and roller skates. Kira and Tommy set out to convert an old theater into a roller disco named Xanadu, a name taken from the location of the “pleasure-dome” in a poem by Samuel Taylor Coleridge.

For Dumas, the show meant learning how perform on traditional roller skates. “When I was growing up I took figure-skating lessons … This one was definitely a challenge. It’s been crazy, but I like it,” she said.

“Xanadu” the movie helped inspire the Golden Raspberry Awards for bad movies. Director Robert Greenwood received the inaugural “Razzie” award for worst director. Nevertheless, the movie eventually developed a cult following, and the soundtrack album topped charts internationally.

Rocker Jeff Lynne of the Electric Light Orchestra and John Farrar, who produced many of Newton-John’s hits, provided more tunes and new arrangements for the stage version of “Xanadu.” The Seacoast Rep’s production will feature a band on stage.

In contrast with the movie’s Razzie award for cinematic failure, the 2007 Broadway version of “Xanadu” earned four Tony Award nominations and a Drama Desk Award.

The Seacoast Rep’s production seeks a balance between reverence and irreverence.

“The movie was a big deal. Olivia Newton-John made it pretty iconic, with the hair blowing in the wind, the fingers across the face,” Dumas said. “You have to believe in the silliness, but still make it an honest portrayal. It’s giving that due to both sides.”

The Oopsy Daisy team’s production touches for “Xanadu” include a tap-dance duet, light-up roller skates and showers of Color Run powder tossed in the air. “They always oomph it up another notch, so that it’s not just what you think you are going to see going into it,” Dumas said. “It’s always a blast.”

“Xanadu” features most of the cast and the same directors as another psychedelic musical the Rep staged this summer, “The Who’s Tommy.”

“It’s a good end-of-summer show after ‘Tommy,’” said Miles Burns, artistic director of the the Rep. “It has toe-tapping songs, and roller skates. And how can you go wrong with that?”

Tickets to “Xanadu” this month range from $29 to $38.

For information, go to seacoastrep.org or call the box office at 433-4472.


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