Friday, July 13, 2007
What a crazy little show, a combination of Broadway musical and “Saturday Night Live.” Actually it was more SNL than I would have liked, but anything that features, much less stars, Kerry Butler is OK with me.
I wish I had seen the 1980 movie “Xanadu” before seeing this musical parody because I felt left out of some to the jokes. The woman behind me laughed hysterically throughout and the audience in general laughed from beginning to end.
The premise has comic potential (silly comic potential) -- muses who come to life out of a sidewalk chalk mural find that rather than their intended destination of Venice in 1780, they have ended up in Venice Beach, CA, in 1980, which sets the stage for an evening full of jokes about that cultural wasteland of an era. Most were funny, but then instantly forgettable. The muses -- nine sisters, two of whom are gay men -- end up offering their inspiration to Sonny, the creator of the chalk art who is ready to commit suicide until the goddess Clio (Butler), known now on earth as Kira, inspires him to open a theatre for all arts -- dance, music, drama, painting -- in a disco roller rink.
Butler dances around on roller skates as if she had been born on them, all the while singing and hamming it up in a comic imitation of Olivia Newton-John, who starred in the from all accounts ghastly movie. She sings the songs from the movie, some of which had made it to the radio at the time but I had completely forgotten them until I heard them again. They did, indeed, seem like something from a distant time.
I have been a Kerry Butler fan since I saw her in “Bat Boy: The Musical,” another crazy little show, many years ago off-Broadway. Since then I’ve enjoyed her in “Prodigal” (a tiresome musical in which she had a small part), “Hairspray,” and “Little Shop of Horrors.” Like Kristin Chenoweth, she seems born to do musical comedy. I’m glad to see her now in a starring role -- she deserves it -- and she looks as if she’s having the time of her life.
I also really liked Cheyenne Jackson as Sonny. The part was supposed to be play by James Carpinello, but he is sidelined for awhile after injuring a foot skating in previews. While I’m sorry he got hurt and had to miss the opening of a show he had worked so hard on, I can’t imagine anyone better in the part than Jackson. I had liked him in “All Shook Up,” another quirky comedy that poked fun at itself, only did a more entertaining job of it, I thought, than “Xanadu.” He embodies the good looking, laid back, none-too-bright dude perfectly. I thoroughly enjoyed the show whenever he and Butler were performing, which thankfully was most of the time.
But when they weren’t . . . I found the most tedious scenes to be those involving Mary Testa who as Clio/Kira’s jealous oldest sister had a role that was always over the top.
All-in-all, it’s a fun evening, luckily only 90 minutes long -- any more would have really pushed it. Kerry Butler is the real reason for my pleasure. Watching her flit and sparkle around is a joy. Congratulations Kerry!