80s Cult Classic ‘Xanadu’ Sparkles into Existence at SDMT

Tease up the ‘do, brush up on the 80s references, and prepare for what the script calls “a gift so grand that none of us truly knows what it is” with Xanadu, playing through June 4 at San Diego Musical Theatre.

The muses all lean to the right together in a clump.

The cast of Xanadu. Photo credit Ken Jacques.

With music and lyrics by Jeff Lynne and John Farrar, book by Douglas Carter Beane, and the legacy of the film starring Olivia Newton-John, Xanadu, under the direction of Jason Blitman, has a lot of the saccharine of the source material.

The romantic comedy follows Kira (Krista Feallock), a Greek muse who falls into 1980 Venice Beach, California. Her mission is to inspire struggling street artist Sonny Malone (Jordan Markus) into developing a roller disco, not to fall in love with him along the way, but her vengeful sisters are quick to capitalize on the mistake.

Sonny poses midstage, holding a roller skate in the air.

Sonny Malone and cast in Xanadu. Photo credit Ken Jacques.

Romantic duo Feallock and Markus are fun and silly as they lead this production. Feallock assumes Newton-John’s affect and Australian accent with ease; her bubbliness is contagious and she has a lovely voice. Markus finds moments of humor and leans into them while being believably enamored with his new muse love.

Danny McGuire, the character originally played by Gene Kelly, is performed by Meghan O’Brien Lowery; her songs and scenes are surprisingly stirring and add a bit of depth to an otherwise surface-level and telegraphed romance.

Two muses make a plan.

Melpomene and Calliope in Xanadu. Photo credit Ken Jacques.

The other members of the ensemble are also vivacious and lively, and a few moments in particular really shine, including Melpomene (Taylor Henderson) and Calliope (Wendy Waddell)’s vocal duet in “Evil Woman.” While the group numbers are still working through some challenges with intonation, what they lack in polish is made up for in sprightliness and shimmery energy, and the camp and drama delivered in big dance numbers, choreographed by Allison Bibicoff, is luscious. 

The Xanadu ensemble includes Cody Bianchi, Annie Buckley, Domo D’Dante, Daisy Martinez, Isabelle Jennings Pickering, and Sarah Pierce. Blitman’s creative team includes musical director Richard Dueñez Morrison, set designer Mike Buckley, lighting designer Michelle Miles, sound designer Brandon Boomizad, costume designer Chong Mi Land, prop master Jennifer Jones Glor, and wig/hair designer Monique Hanson.

Danny and Clio/Kira dance together

Danny and Clio in Xanadu. Photo credit Ken Jacques.

I suspect that people probably “are Xanadu-folx” or “aren’t Xanadu folx” depending on their preference for campy content. That said, if you dig cult classics and are ready to fully commit to a night of disco balls, neon leg warmers, and glitter between now and June 4, San Diego Musical Theatre’s Xanadu might be the ticket to skate on down to.

View the program.

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