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Adagio Teas
   Features  >  NY Theater Reviews

at the Helen Hayes Theatre

By Robert Simonson

  Kerry Butler

Given that Xanadu may be one of the worst ideas for a stage musical ever conceived by man (bad source material in the 1980 film bomb the curse of the jukebox musical and screen-to-stage genres upon it, etc.), one has to say that the creative team's degree of success at the Helen Hayes Theatre is considerable. A brief and amusing 90 minutes, the production put together by director Christopher Ashley and bookwriter Douglas Carter Beane possesses an agreeable lack of serious purpose and a canny knowledge of its own deeply ludicrous nature.

Beane wisely threw out the movie script, keeping only the basic plot- about a Greek Muse who descends to Earth to inspire a hapless artist to open a roller disco (!)-Electric Light Orchestra and Newton-John songs, and fashioned his own patchwork spoof on ྂs-ྌs culture, Edith Hamilton-like Greek god clichés, show business and the creaky contrivances of the jukebox genre. Ashley stuffs Beane's framework with as many gags, inventions, asides and bits of business he can dream up.

The performers also do their part to give the show a professional gloss. Star Kerry Butler, in particular, is crucial in currying the audience's favor. A rolling sight gag in skates, leg-warmers and a tortured Australian accent, she is slyly absurd and adorably laughable as both a demi-god and a human.

If you are incapable of being mellow on the subject of the integrity of the musical theatre, this is definitely not a show for you. It is, after all, a travesty in intent, if not in execution. But if you can free yourself of the idea that the stage must provide something more than amusement and an evening's diversion, you might just have a good time.


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