The Herald Bulletin

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March 14, 2013

Comic planets align in ‘Xanadu’

Love can be magical at Mainstage Theatre, whose pre-season opens Friday

ANDERSON, Ind. — There’s still a place in this world where a roller disco and Greek costumes make for the stuff of dreams.

Call it Xanadu.

And as silly as the retro-mix seems, it’s the place to be this weekend thanks to the talented efforts of Anderson’s Mainstage Theatre and director Tommy Thomas. He has found a perfect cast for the musical “Xanadu,” the community theater’s pre-season opener. The curtain time is 7:30 p.m. tonight and Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday at Mainstage, 124 W. Ninth St.

You might remember “Xanadu,” the rather awful 1980 film that starred Olivia Newton-John and Gene Kelly. The movie, however, did offer good pop songs co-written by Electric Light Orchestra’s Jeff Lynne including “All Over the World” and “Evil Woman” along with Newton-John’s “Suddenly” and “Magic.” Remember? “The planets align so rare/There’s promise in the air ... You have to believe we are magic.” The show went to Broadway in 2007.

The musical’s premise is totally tubular as we once said. Record cover artist Sonny meets Kira who is actually an Olympian muse come to earth. A jealous muse, Melpomene, puts a hex on Kira who, if she falls in love with a human, will be condemned to become a mortal.  All is set in the headband world of Venice, Calif., in 1980 as Sonny ventures into opening a roller disco. Just thinking about the plot hurts.

But when allowed to ham it up, the Mainstage crew goes to camp. Female muses float about with comedic ease though Zachary Ryan Allen may be the most pleasantly unexpected background role in some time at Mainstage. Look for Nita Arnold switching from cantankerous muse to taking on a Garbo flair.

Bill Malone evokes sweet melancholy as Danny, owner of the roller disco building, and Erica Martin tap dances expertly into a brief role as a young Danny.

And then comes the second act where Meaghan Sands turns goddess with side-splitting results.

Primarily, Kayla Shoemaker as Kira anad Daniel Wolhlberg as Sonny shine in the romantic leads. While their romance moves faster than roller skates, they’re allowed time to develop sparks through their duets.

They help us believe that, despite a  campy plot, love can be magical.

The season begins with “South Pacific,” set for May 2-5 and 10-11.

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