Xanadu Glides Onto CCM Stage

Review by Nathan Top

Based on the 1980 cult classic film of the same name, “Xanadu” begins when young peppy Greek muse Clio spies a dopey young muralist dissatisfied with his artwork and resolves to inspire him. Accompanied by her six Muse sisters, Clio (under the alias of the Australian-accented Kira) works to help the artist achieve his dream of opening the first roller disco. With music from 1975 and 1980 composed by Jeff Lynne and John Farrar and book by Douglas Carter Beane, “Xanadu” is an exuberant and whimsical satire of early-80’s caricatures.

The musical is, frankly, a lot:  a lot of look, a lot of synth, a lot of  meta jokes about artists, gentrification, and 40-year-old gays who attend children’s theater. The show never takes itself seriously and for 90 intermissionless minutes, the audience is transported to a world where physics, logic, and reality are delightfully suspended. 

Oftentimes, campiness of a show can overtake a production and bury the story. Director/choreographer Diane Lala strikes the perfect tonal balance for the show. The musical is goofy  and odd and often kitschy but never goes off the rails. The set, designed by Mark Halpin, is flashy, flamboyant, and impressive. Devised with large Greek columns, faux neon-lights, and a vividly-painted floor for the cast to skate upon, the set acts as another character of the show. CCM student Aliana Pizzoferrato’s light plot for the show is effective and unobtrusive while interacting with the set and cast. The costumes, coordinated by Brittannie McKenna Travis, are vibrant and fun. And there were a lot of costumes.

“Xanadu” is basically a showcase for senior Musical Theater student Cassie Maurer (Clio/Kira), who spends the better part of an hour and a half gliding across the stage in roller skates and leg warmers. Olivia Newton-John herself would be proud. Leo Carmody is dashing and amiable as the endearingly dopey artist and love interest Sonny Malone, with his solo on “Don’t Walk Away” was quite possibly my favorite moment of the production. Tyler Martin (Danny Martin, Zeus) does a wonderful job with the number “Whenever You’re Away From Me” and Kassi McMillian (Melpomene, Medusa) with Chesney Mitchell (Calliope, Aphrodite) are hilarious as the show’s villains, notably during their big number “Evil Woman.” The rest of the cast do a marvelous job as Muses/dancers/skaters/sirens/Gods. There are actually a lot of roles to be covered and the small, diversely-talented cast fills each role effectively.

Don’t miss your chance to see CCM’s production of “Xanadu,” running now through October 31st. Tickets can be purchased here.

Nathan Top is a Cincinnati-based playwright and musician. Nathan works as a freelance trumpeter and pianist, performing in big bands, pit orchestras, and pop groups througout Cincinnati.