Remember disco balls? Leg warmers as a fashion statement? The music of ELO? All that and more will be revived as Springfield Contemporary Theatre produces Douglas Carter Beane's humorous theatrical take on the 1980 film Xanadu November 20-December 13 at SCT Center Stage in Wilhoit Plaza.
Leah Koclanes plays the lead role of Clio (pronounced "KLY-oh"), the youngest and perkiest Greek muse on Mount Olympus, who convinces her sisters to come down to Earth with her to help inspire a down-on-his-luck artist whose dream is to open the world's first disco roller-rink. (Yes... well, remember, this was 1980!) "When I found out they were doing Xanadu, I was like, 'Ooh, that sounds like a lot of fun! Okay... there's roller skating... haven't done that in a while!" Asked if she was inexperienced on skates, Leah laughs--director Rick Dines jumps in to say, "not now!" Leah says the show has been "really fun. It's been a totally new experience for me. I've really enjoyed being the leading lady, but also bringing the comedic element to it as well. I love comedic roles."
Clio appears to Sonny, the artist, as "Kira," an Australian girl... so Olivia Newton-John's Aussie accent is perpetuated in the stage version.
If, like me, you don't remember Olivia Newton-John being particularly "comedic" (well, not deliberately, anyway!) in the movie, Rick Dines explains that while Douglas Carter Beane's adaptation is inspired by the film, he "actually pokes a bit of fun at the movie--and at the same time actually makes it make sense! It's brilliant. It took an award-winning playwright to come in and actually make that movie make sense. He's just infused it with such great comedy. He has also brought much more of the Greek mythology element to the piece. It's great fun."
The small SCT Center Stage venue provided Rick Dines with some challenges. "This is definitely the biggest production that we've mounted in that little space, and the show really takes over the venue, which is great fun. Out of the cast of nine, three of them skate, and so, yeah, it gets very busy at times. We have had to put a disclaimer in the program that you really need to stay seated during the performance, because there are people flying through every aisle and entranceway! It's like being in a theme park and getting on a ride--'keep your arms and legs in the cart at all times!'"
As for the music, Ricks says "it's all that wonderful Olivia Newton John and Electric Light Orchestra music from the movie--which really is the saving grace of the movie. All those songs are in there, plus one other Olivia Newton-John hit that they've kind of shoehorned in as well."
Sonny is played by Alex Baylard, and Danny (basically the Gene Kelly role from the film) is played by David DePriest, who turns in "one of the best performances I've seen him give," says Rick Dines. Unlike Gene Kelly, however, David will not be on skates in this production!
Another fun element introduced in this stage version of Xanadu involves the climax of the movie. Clio/Kira goes back up to Mount Olympus to speak to Zeus, but in the movie Zeus is "this disembodied voice in this very 'Tron'-animated sequence that makes no sense," says Rick Dines. "And Douglas Carter Beane has extrapolated another early 1980s movie--so she goes to Mount Olympus... and it is Clash of the Titans Mount Olympus! He's very smartly interpolated so much of the 80s into it. So it's nothing but fun."
Performances of Xanadu will be Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30pm and Sunday afternoons at 2:00 now through December 13. Call 831-8001 or visit http://www.springfieldcontemporarytheatre.org for ticket information.