Xanadu is an outrageously camp and sparkly musical comedy, based on the 1980’s film of the same name. It opened on Broadway in 2007 and received an Outer Critics Circle Award for Best Musical and a Drama Desk Award for Best Book, it was also nominated for Best Musical and Best Book at the Tony’s.
The plot (which has surprising depth and integrity for a show of such frivolity) follows the artistic dreamer Sonny Malone, as he reaches a crisis of belief in his place within this cruel world. Seeing his pain, Clio (one of six Greek Muse sisters) is sent from Mount Olympus down to the netherworld, to undertake the task of helping Sonny regain belief. Jealous Melpomene (the eldest sister) plots to have Clio banished to the netherworld and stripped of her immortality, with the help of Calliope. The pair plan to do this by casting a spell on Clio and Sonny so that they fall in love, which makes her task of helping Sonny realise his dream to open an arts centre come roller disco, very tricky indeed. Not least because they also have to contend with the miserable tycoon Danny Maguire, who owns the theatre they wish to use, which is called… Xanadu. Eventually they win him over with a flashback or two and embark on the mission of restoring the theatre to its former glory. Melpomene and Calliope intervene, outing Clio as a Muse, revealing their love as nothing but a spell. However, upon realising Clio’s “mighty legwarmers” blocked the spell, Zeus is convinced their love is true and spares her of punishment, revealing that “Xanadu” is in fact “True love and the ability to create and share art.”
The Southwark Playhouse is an exciting hub for London theatre, with one of the highest standards of productions you could hope to see right now. Xanadu is no exception. For a show, that in its Broadway production, extended the stage over the orchestra pit and into the audience to accommodate the skating, much credit must be given to this team for pulling it off so spectacularly in this space.
Carly Anderson spends the majority of her time on stage gliding around effortlessly, which in conjunction with her impeccable, dry humoured portrayal of Clio, amounts to one hilarious leading lady. Opposite her skates Samuel Edwards as the boyishly cute Sonny, who despite the moping naivety of this character, wins our hearts with energy and charm. You must go and see this show, if nothing else to witness the comedy duo, Alison Jiear and Lizzy Connolly as Melpomene and Calliope, they are simply hilarious. The rest of the cast offers a fierce and solid ensemble. With Paul Warwick Griffin’s direction and Nathan M. Wright’s choreography, they embody every inch of the thrust stage in which this ridiculousness unfolds, making sure no audience member goes without.
This show is jam packed with all the joy and delight you could ever hope to find in a musical such as this. For a space so small they have managed to pull out all the stops, for what could quite easily become a meaningless congealment of tight shorts and dodgy accents, transpires a sleek and dazzling one hundred and twenty minutes of pure, unadulterated, fun.
Reviewed by Bob Galereux
Xanadu is playing at the Southwark Playhouse theatre until the 21st November. Click here for tickets