Friday, December 21, 2007


If, after the intellectual gymnastics required by "Rock 'n' Roll," the schoolboy attention required by "The Farnsworth Invention," or the menacing familial kerfuffles of "August: Osage County, you are looking for a giant bouffant of cotton candy as a sort of palate refresher, you couldn't do much better than "Xanadu." Yes, that "Xanadu," the Olivia Newton-John film that is widely-regarded as one of the worst movies ever made. Here's how Netflix describes it:

"Concerned about angst-ridden artist Sonny Malone (Michael Beck), Zeus dispatches winsome muse Kira (Olivia Newton-John) to Earth to inspire the painter. Kira hooks Sonny up with wealthy Danny McGuire (Gene Kelly) -- a musician Kira buoyed decades earlier -- and the trio revamps a vacant building into the world's coolest disco roller rink."

That's pretty much what happens onstage, except Kerry Butler plays the Olivia Newton-John role, Cheyenne Jackson steps into Michael Beck's role, and Tony Roberts fills in for Gene Kelly. All three have serious comic chops (especially Cheyenne Jackson) that, when combined with a smart script (filled with generation-crossing pop culture references) from Douglas Carter Beane ("The Little Dog Laughed" and "As Bees In Honey Drown), make for a 90-minute long smile plastered to the faces of everyone in the audience. That's not even taking into account the show-stealing antics of New York comediennes Jackie Hoffman and Mary Testa, who turn the ELO-penned "Evil Woman" into the highlight of the night.

It's silly, it's splashy, it has more mirror balls than all of downtown New York had in the late 70s -- but it's a helluva a good time.

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