The Muses in Xanadu. photo: Chicken Coop
Book by Douglas Carter Beane
Music and lyrics by Jeff Lynne and John Farrar
Directed by Jason Cooper
A review by Kate Barry
Entire contents are copyright © 2022 by Kate Barry. All rights reserved.
I think we can all agree that Xanadu was one of the strangest movies to come out of the 1980s. It tanked at the box office, the special effects are outdated upon release, and the script is more than a little goofy. Nothing short of lopsided schlock, this cult classic is still held in high regard by those who like to roller skate and boogie. While the movie is ridiculous, the musical stage version is nothing short of irresistible fun. I had a chance to see the Chicken Coop Theater Company’s rousing and rolling version of the spectacle on its opening night. Despite some technical errors, the show had lots of magic to share.
There is no better venue for a stage adaptation of Xanadu than Champs Rollerdome on La Grange Road. Inherently nostalgic, equipped with a lighting system complete with smoke machines, disco balls, and strobe lights, all of which are a perfect complement for the production. Without a doubt, the corny humor, cheap wigs, and music written by the Electric Light Orchestra just felt at home in this environment.
Still, there are some drawbacks. Due to seating on the same level as the performance space, I was unable to see the action at times. Other times, the venue’s sound and lighting system failed to do the production justice.
But let’s face it, Xanadu has great songs and the performers rocked it. Kirstie Cook Buckley’s Clio/Kira combined Disney Princess vibes with highly caffeinated charisma. With a breathy Australian accent that is no doubt a send-up of Olivia Newton-John and belting out some sumptuous 80’s power ballads, Cook brings an ace performance as the muse. Remy Sisk has a rich blend of dry humor and cockeyed optimism as Sonny Malone, an artist who wants to open a roller derby. He handles the shift from a suicide attempt to meeting a muse with an ease that allows you to overlook the absurdity of the plot twist and enjoy the ride. Sisk and Buckley skate and sing with camp and fun-loving energy in numbers like “Don’t Walk away” and “Suspended in Time.”
In the role of Danny Maguire, a businessman with no appreciation for the 80s, Rusty Henle escorts in a culture clash with Sisk’s Sonny. Of course, through the power of the muses, Danny changes his tune with a comedic force by Henle. As for Clio’s merry band of muses (Katie Willis, Elizabeth Ruwe, Michael Detmer, Alex Roby, Sara Bell, and Molly Lange Shackelford), these six icons in 80’s pop star regalia burst on stage with pizazz and never slow down. Heidi Gibson Platt provides villainess trickery as Melpomene with Mandy Kramer by her side as the wise-cracking, literally scene-chewing Calliope.
A funny adventure full of love, Xanadu is worth a watch. Never taking itself seriously, the jokes are non stop and the music will stick in your head for days. Indeed, Xanadu has the magic to spare.
April 12-17 2022
Doors open at 7:00 pm (1:30 Sunday)
*Stay after the show for a private skating party with the cast for an additional $7.00
The Chicken Coop Theatre Company
9851 La Grange Rd.
Louisville, KY 40223
Kate Barry earned her Bachelors in English with a Theater minor from Bellarmine University in 2008. She has worked with many different companies around town including Kentucky Shakespeare Festival, Bunbury Theater, Louisville Repertory Company, Walden Theater, Finnigan Productions and you have probably purchased tickets from her at that little performing arts center on Main Street as well. In 2012, her short play “PlayList” won festival favorite in the Finnigan Festival of Funky Fresh Fun. She has written for LEO Weekly and TheatreLouisville.com as well. Thanks for reading!