Saturday, March 22, 2008

Xanadu on Broadway is Like a Dream... A Really Bad One

As many of you who read my other blog (Long Live Locke) know, I was really looking forward to seeing Xanadu on Broadway while in New York last week. I was one of the people who loved the 1980 movie, and still listen to its soundtrack often. As a young girl, I wanted to be Olivia Newton-John. Between her roles as Sandy in Grease and Kira in Xanadu, I thought she was the coolest person on the planet. The Broadway version was actually garnering some decent reviews, so my hopes went even higher.

Alas, when I saw advertisements for the musical plastered across garbage cans in the Big Apple, I should have known that was a bad sign. Because that's what Xanadu on Broadway was: complete garbage.

Before I go any further, I probably should explain the movie's ridiculous plot, so you know what the Broadway peeps had to work with. Xanadu is about a muse (literally--as in, one of the Greek muses) named Kira (making the name popular decades before Ms. Knightley pouted her way onto the silver screen) who is transported to southern California via a mural that comes to life. She falls in love with Sonny, a down-on-his-luck artist, which is "against the rules" according to her father, Zeus. Kira hopes to stay with Sonny long enough to ensure that his dream--opening a rollerskating disco (with Danny, played by Gene Kelly!)--comes to fruition. Along the way, there are a ton of awesome songs, most of which are performed by ELO (Electric Light Orchestra) or the main actors. The end.

So, um, yeah... I admit that the premise is totally goofy. But it worked for me back in the day, and even though the movie was universally panned, its soundtrack was extremely successful. When I bought tickets for the Broadway version, I thought, "OK, if nothing else, the songs will be good."

I was wrong! Not only was the stage version drastically different from the movie, it also absolutely butchered the songs. It became clear early on that the musical did not intend to pay tribute to its namesake; it intended to mercilessly skewer it. Which I probably would've been OK with, had they not messed with the story and the songs as much as they did. All of the other muses (Kira's sisters), who essentially had no role in the movie, were a major presence on stage. There was even a new subplot about two older "evil sisters" who tried to put a curse on Kira. And while it was funny when the performers initially poked fun at Kira's Australian accent and some of the other inside jokes from the movie (or from the 80s overall), it got really old really quickly when those gags ran incessantly for ninety minutes. But the worst part was definitely how they destroyed the songs. Either the woman playing Kira was singing in a purposefully nasally and obnoxious faux Aussie accent, or the guy playing Sonny was hamming it up to the point that the melody was ruined. Needless to say, I was really, really disappointed.

The reaction from the audience was split down the middle. People either loved it or despised it. I was obviously in the latter camp, and I felt awful for poor Miss M, who I dragged to the show with me. She hadn't even seen the movie, so I think she was especially confused!

I seriously need to see the movie again as soon as possible so that I can rid myself of the awful memories from the musical and remember why I was such a big fan of Xanadu as a kid. I've already replayed the soundtrack on my iPod, but it just made me that much angrier at how the Broadway production absolutely obliterated some wonderful songs. There will be no justice for Xanadu in my lifetime, I fear.

Below is a five minute, thirty second spot on Xanadu on Broadway (which also shows a lot of clips from the movie) that aired on Nightline before the musical opened.

If you've never seen the movie, I honestly can't recommend it. When seen as a kid, it may be cool, but if you see it for the first time as an adult, you may be thoroughly disturbed. But if you are OK with the crazy premise and like ELO and/or Olivia Newton-John, or if you want to see Gene Kelly tap dance AND roller skate, then this is the movie for you. Below is its original two-minute trailer, which in and of itself is hilarious. Trailers sure have come a long way in 28 years!

See? How could I not love this movie?
- e


Wanders said...

::wince:: Sorry you were disappointed. I remember that movie trailer as a kid, but even then it didn't entice me to see the movie. Now get yourself some Drowsy Chaperone tickets and cleanse your pallet! Seats are still available in Chicago next month.

Lula! said...

A) Adore ONJ
B) Worship ELO
C) Still love Xanadu
D) Thanks to your review, not gonna waste a minute of my life on the Broadway production, which left me saying, "Oh no they dih-unt!" The horror.

Maybe (hopefully) working on your latest LLL post will rid your brain of this horrible experience.

Anonymous said...

Next time you're in NYC, let me know...though I won't be foolish enough to join you for a crappy musical. Spring Awakening or something, I'm there...Xanadu, not so much. :)

Anonymous said...

e - I distinctly remember that shortly after we met (at age 12) we discussed our love for the movie Xanadu. I also distinctly remember that sometime in junior high we got together at your house to watch the video, and could not even get through all of it, we thought it was so bad. Or maybe we did watch the whole thing, but were like, "wow, I really remember this as being good, but... it's not." I think this is a memory to be cherished from when we were 7, enjoy the songs and memories of roller skating around to the record, and leave it at that. But let me know if you do watch it again, I'm curious to see what you think of it now.