XANADU-The Original Broadway Cast Recording
(PS Classics PS-858)
Sure, the movie and its longevity may top off the insane scale, but leave it to Broadway, in it’s hyper-active sensibility, to bring the movie to it’s main street and napalm that scale.
Okay, I may have exaggerated a bit on that last line, but that’s the norm around here, beginning with the movie and leading to this production and it’s CD.
Even though the movie may not be as over the top compared to it’s late 70’s bad musical brethren like Can’t Stop The Music and The Apple, this hasn’t stopped this show’s cast and crew to take the suddle kinks in Xanadu’s system and lovingly milk it for it’s entertaining worth.
Kerry Butler’s performance as Olivia Newton-John/Kira/Clio/whatever is a clear example of this. In tracks like ‘Suddenly’ and ‘Suspended In Time’, Butler comically turns ONJ’s breathless singing into desperate gasps for air and morphed her accent into Paul Hogan in drag.
Even though Michael Beck’s wooden performance might not have worked well in this theatrical format, Cheyenne Jackson’s turn as Sonny manages to effectively nails the character’s stubborn gumption.
I’ve also gained a new level of respect for Tony Roberts, not only for his bravery for taking on this show and filling in Danny McGaguire’s shoes, but actually singing some of the ELO songs. Being a fan of the group, I have to joyfully giggle to hear him sing his share of ‘All Over The World’ & ‘Don’t Walk Away’.
Jackie Hoffman (Melpomene) and Mary Testa (Calliope) apply their collective panache to turn ELO’s early hit Evil Woman into a real Broadway showstopper. After hearing this track, I thought of checking my calendar to see when the rest of the ELO catalog will have their own turn on stage. If Mr. Blue Sky isn’t made and ready for Broadway, I don’t know WHAT is…other than that Out Of the Blue spaceship.
All of this giddiness might sound over barring, but, by appropriately mirroring the movie’s almost naked sincerity, the performances are respectful and honest, which gives this whole production needed dramatic weight; ‘Don’t Walk Away’ almost turns into a gospel tune towards the end and ‘Whenever You’re Away From Me’ is just as heartfelt as the original. Kerry skillfully manages to balance the humor of her performance and the drama of the lyrics, especially with ‘Suspended In Time’.
The recording production carries it’s own surprises. The four-piece band covers all the song’s original elaborate arrangements very well and, with tracks like Suspended and Whenever, add a level of intimacy. Not forgetting additional bits of fun with Strange Magic and Have You Never Been Mellow?
Even if you’ve seen the show a coupe of times (and to the more selective few, many, many, many, MANY times), read all about the show’s history and know it ALL by heart, the CD booklet will surprise you, too. Not only are there pictures galore, there’s the wonderfully detailed, informative and funny liner notes by the show’s scribe himself, Douglas Carter Beane. (Imagine my surprise to learn that one of the original Xanadu screenwriters is an associate producer of this staged production! Good for him, he suffered long enough)
After listening to this a few times to get use to hearing…aw, screw it, sucking in Xanadu being amped up to a Spinal Tap 12, I think I ready for the face to face challenge of actually seeing this movie that I loved since 1980 being lovingly and sincerely mocked to such insane levels.
Thanks to this CD, I now can now take it like a man, or a thick skinned fanboy (which you have to be after years of people question your sanity thanks to this Xanadu deal). The only thing I fear now is that while I’m in NYC to see this show, I’ll be forced to see The Little Mermaid on stage, too. That Disney dude maybe insane, but he takes himself a little TOO seriously…and nothing kills an insane party than a moody drunk.
2019 UPDATE: TMI, but I was forced to see The Little Mermaid while I was in NYC in 2008 and, yup, too much sap for my taste.....and I think I was the oldest person in the theater.