NOTE: The original version of this review included a comment that some readers considered "body shaming." While that was not my intent, I have edited out the reference as I consider and process the comments. As always, I encourage active discussion of matters related to the arts and welcome all feedback either publicly or directly to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Recently, I wrote about extremely silly production of “Monty Python’s Spamalot” at the Tarkington Theatre.
Well, that show is Ibsen compared to what’s happening across the Center for the Performing Arts lobby in the Studio Theatre.
That’s where Actors Theatre of Indiana is closing out its season with “Xanadu” (through May 17). That’s the 2007 musical based on the train-wreck 1980 movie that put the kibosh on Olivia Newton-John’s movie career, soiled Electric Light Orchestra’s musical legacy, and added an unfortunate final film on Gene Kelly’s IMDB page.
I won’t attempt to explain what might have motivated creative folks to turn this triviality into a full-blown Broadway production. But adapt they did, simultaneously embracing and mocking the transform-a-movie genre.
The plot? Greek demi-goddess Clio, sporting legwarmers and skates, journeys to disco-era California to inspire street artist Sonny Malone (There seems to be a requirement to use both of his names) to build a roller disco. They fall in love, of course, but is it true love or the spell of her scheming sisters?
ATI’s amiable production turns the Studio Theatre into a Venice Beach boardwalk, complete with an onstage bandstand housing a small combo charmingly carrying the show’s hit tunes. The leads are effective skaters and singers, but less able to find the sweet spot where dumb and charming coexist. That, and a few dud one-liners, dissipated some of the fun in an otherwise diverting confection. A spirited supporting cast, an exceptionally funny batch of late-in-the-show costumes (I won’t spoil), and choreography that makes wise use of the space, help considerably.