Xanadu

The stage version of the 1980 film is ridiculous – and a ridiculous amount of fun

It's a strange magic, mate: Matthew Redden's Sonny goes gaga for Jill Blackwood's Ki-i-i-ra
It's a strange magic, mate: Matthew Redden's Sonny goes gaga for Jill Blackwood's Ki-i-i-ra (Photo courtesy of Kirk R. Tuck)

Xanadu

Zach Theatre Kleberg Stage, 1421 W. Riverside, 476-0541
www.zachtheatre.org
Through Aug. 26
Running time: 2 hr.

I recently received a box of gifts from my grandparents, who were paring down their possessions. They generously included many fine items from over six decades of marriage. (Stick with me – I'm going somewhere with this.) Also included in the box were several packages of lace doilies made out of paper.

There's nothing wrong with the paper doilies, per se. If you work hard enough, you could probably find a way to make them look all right. It's even possible that an imaginative crafter could find a cool purpose for them. At the end of the day, however, they're paper doilies. You can't set your expectations too terribly high.

That's Xanadu, in a nutshell. The ridiculous musical from Zach Theatre is not bad at all. It's about a Muse (Jill Blackwood) who descends from Olympus and scoots around on roller skates for the purpose of inspiring one Sonny Malone (Matthew Redden) into launching a new roller disco. They fall in love. (Yes, it's the same Xanadu as the 1980 movie with Olivia Newton-John.) Nice performances, good singing, and an enthusiastic presentation: Xanadu is just fine. Even better, the musical features a few local actors making their debuts at Zach, and it's always fun to see actors turn in a good performance when they move to relatively bigger stages for the first time in Austin.

Xanadu is, however, a giant paper doily. Plenty of people love paper doilies, and more power to 'em. As paper doilies go, this is a great one. You just can't go in expecting a handcrafted, heirloom linen tablecloth.

Metaphors with chintzy household decorations aside, Xanadu also features fun costumes (designed by Susan Branch Towne), although it does not feature as much roller skating as you might expect. What skating there is is fun, and who knew that, among her many other talents showcased on Austin stages for years now, Jill Blackwood also has very nice dexterity on skates? Some of the choreography from guest director Nick Demos is a touch lackluster, but overall the production is enthusiastically exuberant.

At intermission on the evening I attended, two little girls in different parts of the audience started dancing in the same style as Xanadu: lots of energetic arm movements and nonsexual hip waggles. Not everyone who goes to see Zach's production will be willing to display their delight with such abandon, but inside, admit it: All of them want to. Even the ones who think doilies are kind of silly.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 36 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
More Xanadu
After a Fashion
After a Fashion
Star light, star bright: Ross Bennet could be our 'Fashion Star'!

Stephen MacMillan Moser, April 13, 2012

Gay Place
Gay Place
Take your typewriter, pencil, or pen, and if you make a mistake, you gotta do it again!

Kate X Messer, Jan. 27, 2012

More Arts Reviews
Austin Playhouse's <i>Monroe</i>
Austin Playhouse's Monroe
In Lisa B. Thompson's tender drama, young African-Americans work out where they belong in the world

Robert Faires, Sept. 21, 2018

Miró Quartet at Bates Recital Hall
Miró Quartet at Bates Recital Hall
The ensemble's opening concert for its 15th season as UT's Faculty-Quartet-in-Residence was uplifting in a number of ways

Robert Faires, Sept. 21, 2018

More by Elizabeth Cobbe
Shrewd Productions' <i>The Madres</i>
Shrewd Productions' The Madres
In Stephanie Alison Walker’s new play, women’s fight for the “disappeared” in Argentina’s Dirty War proves timely

Sept. 7, 2018

<i>The Undertaker's Daughter</i> by Sara Blaedel
The Undertaker's Daughter by Sara Blaedel
Denmark's "Queen of Crime" brings the mystery Stateside with a Danish woman who must deal with both a funeral home she's inherited in Wisconsin and a local murder

July 20, 2018

KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Xanadu, Zach Theatre, Nick Demos, Jill Blackwood, Matthew Redden, Susan Branch Towne

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Updates for SXSW 2019

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle