Xanadu The Book! Seriously!
(self-published by XANADU LLC [(a. k. a. Xanadu On Broadway])
Part two of what’s turning out to be XPS’s overview of the Xanadu On Broadway phenomenon trilogy….thingy….whatever….
In part one (which was a review of the soundtrack), I mentioned the word of that day was ‘insane’; reflecting the giddy over-the-topness that prevailed through the recording and mirroring the movie’s sincerity.
Well, this here part two word of the day is dedication…actually stubborn dedication. Okay, that’s two words. Big deal, as the way things are looking up for this show in general, anything can happen and sure as hell in a hand basket will. If further digging for another ‘one’ word is necessary, it would have to be vindication….in the name of art, fun and the love and resurrection of the heart and soul of a failed movie.
With this book, you’ll get to read, see and get the vibe of how a dedicated few stubbornly forged ahead in the face of doubts, obstacles and naysayers to the point that you might think that these people went beyond dedication and went well into a nut farm. However, be forewarned as you’ve just crossed the intersection of Xanadu and Broadway Avenues, bubba, and that’s where that nut farm is also located.
We start off with show’s scribe himself, Douglas Carter Beane, describing the process and rewrites of the script. While the movie tiptoed lightly around the Greek mythology, Beane went gung-ho medieval through this world with tons of research that included related books, television and movies (primarily Clash Of The Titains on the later category).
After reading this chapter, you’ll find out the REAL word ‘o the day is really inspiration; not just from the movie, but the muses themselves. Hell, you’d probably learn more about this mythology deal here than any textbook you’ll find in college!
This history lesson continues with following detailed chapters with the set, light and costume designers and choreographers mapping out the plan of attack, squeezing all that Greek history on the small Broadway stage, with a small slice of very early 80’ new wave, very late 70’s disco and a dash of Venice Beach to make things more….interesting. (Hmmm, there’s another ‘one’ word fer ya)
Parts of the movie crop up with the chapter covering the music; John Farrar and the shows music director Eric Stern share an interview, while ELO archivist Rob Caiger sizes up ELO’s legacy related to the movie and it’s soundtrack.
A real highlight of the book is the interview with the shows mighty producers. It is in this round table discussion that all of the dedication and determination you’ve read so far comes to a poignant head.
While Robert Ahrens is the man with the plan that got this disco ball rolling in the first place, his co-producers (Tara Smith and B. “call me Brian” Swibel are included in this interview) are equally passionate and hard working. It is this section you learn of the team’s core belief of Xanadu and how it fits into a much broader scale of art and the human condition, going well beyond being “stuck in a bad movie”.
…and with stories like, after hearing a dismissive remark from a waitress during an early production lunch break, Swibel going out to buy tickets for the show and giving them to her not only to prove a point about making such remarks without seeing the show, but sternly offering her a personal guarantee that she’ll love it, one can’t help but cheer for these people and the principles they stand for.
As we head towards the end of the book, we get a couple of VERY informative interviews with the movie’s original screenwriters; Marc Rubel and Richard Danus. Danus’ section is short and funny, but it’s Rubel’s interview that contains a bit of drama.
Without going into too much detail here, Rubel’s own story was much more rockier than originally suspected. Even though he came up with the original concept of the movie and ended up with top writing billing, he was kicked off the project as it went to Universal and had his writing career sadly suffer for it since.
However, much like everything else tied to this show, there’s a happy ending for Mr. Rubel. “To have this success feels great,” he says at the end of the interview. “Finally. It is redemption. Very rare. You just don’t get that with this business.”
‘Redemption’. There’s another ‘one’ word. Hell, I might as well abandon this simplistic ‘critic clique’ by now. The show has even defied THAT, too!
The design and layout of this glossy 12 by 12 book is elaborate, informative and it also reflects the art deco and humor of the show. A small example of the humor can easily be seen with the title and it’s back cover: “ALSO INCLUDES! Foreword by Chip Kidd! No Page Numbers! Laughs Galore! Minor Errors In Spelling And Punctuation!”
Oh, yea! Chip Kidd! The designer behind great books like 2001’s PEANUTS: The Art Of Charles Shultz. He served as a project consultant for this publication. A good sign!
Even if you haven’t seen the show, this book stands alone as a grand sturdy testament, a tale, of all those ‘one’ words I babbled off to lazily describe this whole scheme in the first place.
Finally, do I recommend this book? One more word for this ‘critic clique’ pile: Duh!