BOTTOM LINE:It's the funniest show on Broadway (if you like smart, quirky humor with a dash of roller disco).
So I'll admit that I had very little desire to see Xanadu, the new-ish Broadway musical currently playing at the Helen Hayes Theatre. It sounded like a disaster waiting to happen. I mean, an ‘80s musical based on the Olivia Newton John movie musical of the same name? No way it should've been good. But I have to say that despite my strong reservations I absolutely loved this show! It is the funniest musical I have seen in a long time and I hope that everyone who reads this review will skate over to the theatre and see the show immediately.
Xanadu tells the story of a Greek muse who is sent to earth to inspire Californians during the 1980s. While on earth, she falls in love with an artist and helps him realize his dreams of opening a roller disco. I know that sounds ridiculous, and it is, but somehow, it doesn't matter. The book, by the ingenious Douglas Carter Beane (Little Dog Laughed), takes this shoddy premise and manages to make a smart, loving satire of this cult movie, and he should have finally been rewarded with a Tony for his efforts. (Passing Strange winning best book of a musical? Come on Tony voters! What does Mr. Beane have to do to catch a break from you people?) All of the problems with the original story are acknowledged and made fun of with a wry sense of humor that is really refreshing for a Broadway musical. The show makes jokes about why the main character is speaking with an Australian accent when she is supposed to be Greek, and why the characters are suddenly on roller skates.
The performances are also wonderful. The comic genius of Mary Testa and Jackie Hoffman is some of the best work that you will see on a Broadway stage this season. It's a shame that they couldn't be nominated for a Tony together for their performances.
If you go to this show with an open mind, wanting to have a good time, you will get everything you ask for. Even though the running time is almost 2 hours without an intermission, the time actually flies by and you won't believe that it is already over. Xanadu is one of the best reviewed shows of the season and the winner of the Outer Critics Circle Award for Best Musical. It was also Tony nominated for Best Musical. Xanadu is just plain good, so get over your hang-ups about it and see it already!
(Xanadu plays at the Helen Hayes Theatre, 240 West 44th Street between 7th and 8th Avenues. Perfomances are Tuesday at 7pm, Wednesday - Saturday at 8pm, Wednesday and Saturday at 2pm, and Sunday at 3pm. Tickets are $41.50 (onstage seating) to $111.50. Student rush is available. For tickets call 212.239.6200 or visit telecharge.com. Visit xanaduonbroadway.com for more info!)