‘Xanadu’ at American Theater Company is roller toe summer fun

By PHILIP POTEMPA
Of Notoriety


The last time a production of the stage musical spoof “Xanadu” rolled through Chicagoland was in 2012 for a spin around the stage at Drury Lane Theatre in Oak Brook. And prior to that ticket tribute to Greek gods and goddesses wrapped in roller disco music, it was 2009 for what was a short open run at Drury Lane Water Tower Place in downtown Chicago.

This summer, the silly stage treatment of the now much-lampooned and lovingly lamented 1980 movie of the same name, starring Olivia Newton-John, Michael Beck and a confused Gene Kelly (in one of his final film appearances), is back, this time for a ticket triumph at American Theater Company, where it continue to roll along until July 17.

What began as a box office film wreck is now frivolous funny entertainment from beginning to end for a silly send-up stage property that began as a 2008 Broadway.

Directed by Lili-Anne Brown and choreographed by Brigette Ditmars, what follows for this two-hour ride is carefree abandon, with a fantastic cast led by Landree Fleming in the female lead that pays homage to Olivia Newton-John‘s film performance as not-of-this-Earth character Clio who poses as human Kira.

She’s opposite the brilliant blend of beef and cheese that is actor Jim DeSelm as Sonny, the goofy and good-hearted male romantic lead.

In case you’ve escaped having ever seen the Universal Pictures 1980-now-cult classic movie version, here’s the stage story which mirrors and reflects the same plot as glaring as any orbiting disco ball orb.

It follows the journey of a magical and beautiful Greek muse, Kira, played by Fleming, who descends from the heavens of Mount Olympus as a demi-goddess to Venice Beach, Calif. in 1980 on a quest to inspire a struggling artist, Sonny, played as a bubblebrain by DeSelm.

Sonny is on a quest to what he believes is the greatest artistic creation of all time: a roller disco. (Insert eye roll here…)

When Kira falls into forbidden love with the mortal Sonny, her jealous sisters take advantage of the situation and kooky chaos abounds. The powerhouse talent that is Missy Aguilar rightfully steals her every scene as conniving sister Calliope.

The cast gets to work their magic in very intimate confines, in the midst of a minimal set by scenic designer Arnel Sancianco.

Fleming, DeSelm and Aguilar and the rest earn worthy applause for their ability to keep things moving and magical, while much of the time, doing this all on roller skates.

Actor Aaron Holland steps in for the Gene Kelly role of businessman Danny, along with taking a bearded turn later as Zeus.

The most fun for this show, as you might expect, is watching the wacky resurrection of the movie’s Olivia Newton-John jamboree soundtrack of tunes like “Magic,” “Suddenly” (the comedic timed show-stopper here by Milo and Critelli) and “Have You Never Been Mellow.”

This is more than “mellow” entertainment for anyone looking for a fun summer show stage ticket.

The show runs just about two hours, without an intermission. Tickets $48 to $58 and American Theater Company is located at 1909 W. Byron in Chicago. FYI: 773-409-4125 or www.atcweb.org

Philip Potempa is a veteran journalist and published. He can be reached philip@ofnotoriety.com.