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XANADU ****** Las Vegas Little Theatre 19 July 2013 Most of us will automatically associate Xanadu with the lovely Olivia Newton-John happily roller-skating, while belting out catchy 80ties tunes and looking very fetching in her leg- warmers. The LVLT production is actually based on the Broadway Musical Comedy inspired by the very movie (from the Universal Pictures Studio) with Olivia Newton-John, Michael Beck and Gene Kelly. It features the songs from the film as well as some new arrangements, quite well chosen to complement the glam/disco style. I will start with the fact that the nature was not on our side, as there was a huge storm on this particular evening. But even though the power went out a few times and the roof was leaking water onto the stage, the cast and crew remained fully professional along the lines: “the show must go on”. They seemed to have everything under control very nicely. And so the show went on. The set design (Ron Lindlbom) impressed with its ingenious construction, something between an ancient Greek temple and a modern brick building, with a curtain in the wall. Thanks to that clever little invention it appeared as though the characters were emerging straight from inside the bricks! Because soon enough the Muses came alive and stepped out from a mural painted by an aspiring artist, Sonny Malone. Why would they do that you ask? Well, in order to stop him from killing himself in despair over his lacking creative esteem, the Head Muse, Clio, convinced her sisters to descend down to Earth to assist the unfortunate mortal. To remain incognito, she decided to adopt an Australian accent and pose as a leg-warmer wearing roller-skater named Kira.  So obviously it all makes perfect sense so far. And don’t expect it to get any more logical as the plot thickens and yes, thicken it will. As the first tunes were played by the band and the ensemble burst into song, I must admit that my companion and I exchanged a look of great concern. The singing was, well, a bit scary, as was the dancing. Everything had this kind of amateurish vibe to it. But as the show progressed, we quickly relaxed and started to really enjoy ourselves! Under the best of circumstances the original Xanadu (the film) cannot be considered a masterpiece of cinematography. The Broadway musical used the story as inspiration, but added a lot of humor and spoofing elements to it. The LVLT went even a step further and made it into a parody of the parody of the original. In other words this adaptation was so bad that it became brilliant in an instant cult-status way. Not to mention kept you laughing helplessly all throughout the performance. Some of the comic effect was simply achieved by the cast repeatedly and persistently singing off tune and being rather uncoordinated and unpolished in their attempts to follow choreography. If it was done on purpose or not, I still am not entirely sure. Nevertheless, instead of embarrassing, it ended up being rather entertaining, so thumbs up! The costumes were definitely designed with a big wink of an eye: a bit tacky and cheap, they had you in giggles just looking at them (especially the Muses and Mythological Creatures, as well as numerous cases of very, very bad wigs!). But for me the funniest parts were the ridiculous props used throughout the production, such as a small wooden horse in a cloud of cotton wool (imitating Pegasus) being pulled by a guy wearing a cloud costume. Or a small portable fan held by the same young man blowing on our heroine and thus creating the “wind in the hair” effect during her big finale.  As far as the cast goes, Christine De Chavez did a good job portraying Clio/Kira; compared to the rest of the ensemble (except for Brian Scott, who was also top-notch) her acting and singing performance could be almost perceived as fabulous. Even though her fake Australian accent did seem extremely exaggerated and a bit annoying, but let’s just agree that it was an intentional humorous element, ehem. Michael Drake (Sonny Malone) has a pleasant singing voice and when he hit the notes he sounded really good, but unfortunately some of the numbers seemed to be out of his vocal range and the result turned out to be somewhat unsettling. At this point I would like to extend special praise to Penni Paskett and Gillen Brey, a.k.a. the two scheming and conniving Muses, Calliope and Melpomene. The comic effect created by their dialogue was additionally enhanced by their appearance: the complete opposite body-type combined with the cheesy costumes (Penni quite striking as a nerdy Muse, green glasses and all). So if they did not succeed in inspiring any artistic endeavor in the souls of us lesser mortals, they certainly managed to awaken those said souls to some great bouts of merriment. All in all a very funny show, some of it maybe not necessarily intentional, but it’s the overall effect that counts, right? And any production that will have you giggling uncontrollably throughout the duration of the performance is always good in my book!
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XANADU ****** Las Vegas Little Theatre 19 July 2013 Most of us will automatically associate Xanadu with the lovely Olivia Newton-John happily roller-skating, while belting out catchy 80ties tunes and looking very fetching in her leg-warmers. The LVLT production is actually based on the Broadway Musical Comedy inspired by the very movie (from the Universal Pictures Studio) with Olivia Newton-John, Michael Beck and Gene Kelly. It features the songs from the film as well as some new arrangements, quite well chosen to complement the glam/disco style. I will start with the fact that the nature was not on our side, as there was a huge storm on this particular evening. But even though the power went out a few times and the roof was leaking water onto the stage, the cast and crew remained fully professional along the lines: “the show must go on”. They seemed to have everything under control very nicely. And so the show went on. The set design (Ron Lindlbom) impressed with its ingenious construction, something between an ancient Greek temple and a modern brick building, with a curtain in the wall. Thanks to that clever little invention it appeared as though the characters were emerging straight from inside the bricks! Because soon enough the Muses came alive and stepped out from a mural painted by an aspiring artist, Sonny Malone. Why would they do that you ask? Well, in order to stop him from killing himself in despair over his lacking creative esteem, the Head Muse, Clio, convinced her sisters to descend down to Earth to assist the unfortunate mortal. To remain incognito, she decided to adopt an Australian accent and pose as a leg-warmer wearing roller-skater named Kira.  So obviously it all makes perfect sense so far. And don’t expect it to get any more logical as the plot thickens and yes, thicken it will. As the first tunes were played by the band and the ensemble burst into song, I must admit that my companion and I exchanged a look of great concern. The singing was, well, a bit scary, as was the dancing. Everything had this kind of amateurish vibe to it. But as the show progressed, we quickly relaxed and started to really enjoy ourselves! Under the best of circumstances the original Xanadu (the film) cannot be considered a masterpiece of cinematography. The Broadway musical used the story as inspiration, but added a lot of humor and spoofing elements to it. The LVLT went even a step further and made it into a parody of the parody of the original. In other words this adaptation was so bad that it became brilliant in an instant cult-status way. Not to mention kept you laughing helplessly all throughout the performance. Some of the comic effect was simply achieved by the cast repeatedly and persistently singing off tune and being rather uncoordinated and unpolished in their attempts to follow choreography. If it was done on purpose or not, I still am not entirely sure. Nevertheless, instead of embarrassing, it ended up being rather entertaining, so thumbs up! The costumes were definitely designed with a big wink of an eye: a bit tacky and cheap, they had you in giggles just looking at them (especially the Muses and Mythological Creatures, as well as numerous cases of very, very bad wigs!). But for me the funniest parts were the ridiculous props used throughout the production, such as a small wooden horse in a cloud of cotton wool (imitating Pegasus) being pulled by a guy wearing a cloud costume. Or a small portable fan held by the same young man blowing on our heroine and thus creating the “wind in the hair” effect during her big finale.  As far as the cast goes, Christine De Chavez did a good job portraying Clio/Kira; compared to the rest of the ensemble (except for Brian Scott, who was also top-notch) her acting and singing performance could be almost perceived as fabulous. Even though her fake Australian accent did seem extremely exaggerated and a bit annoying, but let’s just agree that it was an intentional humorous element, ehem. Michael Drake (Sonny Malone) has a pleasant singing voice and when he hit the notes he sounded really good, but unfortunately some of the numbers seemed to be out of his vocal range and the result turned out to be somewhat unsettling. At this point I would like to extend special praise to Penni Paskett and Gillen Brey, a.k.a. the two scheming and conniving Muses, Calliope and Melpomene. The comic effect created by their dialogue was additionally enhanced by their appearance: the complete opposite body-type combined with the cheesy costumes (Penni quite striking as a nerdy Muse, green glasses and all). So if they did not succeed in inspiring any artistic endeavor in the souls of us lesser mortals, they certainly managed to awaken those said souls to some great bouts of merriment. All in all a very funny show, some of it maybe not necessarily intentional, but it’s the overall effect that counts, right? And any production that will have you giggling uncontrollably throughout the duration of the performance is always good in my book!
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