|Photo by Joe del Tufo
As a child of the '80s (1984, to be exact), I was pretty ‘psych’ed ('80s slang here is vital) to learn that Xanadu at CTC involves roller skates, Greek mythology converging with pop culture, and a whole lotta camp. Camp is good, as long as you know what you’re in for. Come to the Black Box expecting an enlightening and Earth-shattering theatrical awakening — and this is definitely not the show for you. But, if you’re ready for the ridiculous, over-the-top, so bad-it’s-good, spandex-y roller derby that is Xanadu, you’re in for a treat. Just be sure to bring your legwarmers (I’m actually not kidding. Donning '80s gear appears to be encouraged).
Xanadu marks City Theater Company’s last show in its 19th season and is based on the 1980 Olivia Newton-John cult classic movie of the same name. The fluffy plot focuses on a Greek muse named Clio, played by the exuberant Jenna Kuerzi (last seen in December at CTC as Shelley in Bat Boy: The Musical) who comes from Mt. Olympus to Venice Beach, California in 1980 on a mission to inspire the struggling — and comically suicidal — mural artist, Sonny Malone. Sonny is played by the bright-eyed Billy Kametz, who steals the show with his charming Ralph Macchio physique, boy band-esque voice and “jorts”. (Yes, that’s jeans+shorts.) Clio shares with her posse of Grecian muse sisters her plans to disguise herself as an Australian roller girl named Kira — complete with a horrendous accent — and appeal to the mortal Sonny in an effort to inspire his art.
|Photo by Joe del Tufo
CTC Producing Artistic Director Michael Gray directs this nine-person roller extravaganza (every part is double-cast with the exception of the primary leads), with musical direction by Joe Trainor and choreography by Dawn Morningstar. Spatially, the stage is set up almost in the round, with a ramp dividing two parts of the audience and a raised platform in the front. A separate playing space is utilized to the left, all with columns and black cloth that are pulled to reveal the mirrored, shimmering disco — Xanadu — that Clio/Kira inspires Sonny to open. The end of the show culminates in Zeus lifting Clio’s banishment and, you guessed it, the two lovers reuniting. But not before Clio/Kira makes a grand entrance on a foam Pegasus pulled by a sassy attendant and the entire cast comes out on roller skates for a final dance party extravaganza. (Complete with a minotaur with pierced nipples. Also, not kidding.)
Musically, the band was spot-on and the voices and harmonies were on point. Additionally, the choreography was quite seamless; not an easy feat when the central character is on roller skates for the majority of the show. Perhaps the most enjoyable element is that this show winks at its own ridiculousity throughout, even referencing its own double-casting and offering more tongue-in-cheek pop-culture references in one evening than one could possibly imagine.
In short, Xanadu is a whole lot of crazy and a whole lot of fun! Xanadu runs through May 11 at CTC's 'home', The Black Box at OperaDelaware Studios, 4 S. Poplar Street, on the Wilmington waterfront. Tickets are available online at city-theater.org or at the box office on show nights, but cash or check only are accepted onsite.