‘Xanadu’ combines ’80s aesthetics with Greek mythology

Xanadu was presented by the Stage Theater, a small theater group that takes an experimental approach to theater.

Sophia Kontos

“Xanadu” was presented by the Stage Theater, a small theater group that takes an experimental approach to theater.

Sophia Kontos, Online Section Editor

An awful eighties-movie-turned-rollerskating-musical wound up being the perfect way to raise my spirits after both Hurricane Harvey and the first week back at school.

“Xanadu” features actors rollerskating across the stage of Miller Outdoor Theatre in hideous ’80s fashions including leg warmers, big hair and neon mini-dresses while singing Broadway versions of songs from the 1980 film flop. Although the ’80s is a decade best left forgotten, Xanadu made me laugh so hard I cried several times during the show.

Stages is a small non-profit professional theater that typically presents experimental plays in one of their two intimate theaters (3201 Allen Parkway), where musicians often share the stage with the actors. Founded in 1978 in the basement of a downtown brewery, Stages celebrates its 40th season this year. Their shows, especially musicals, might be staged in small spaces, but that allows for sizable audience participation. During their annual winter holiday Panto productions, the audience becomes an important member of the cast, booing the villains, cheering on the heroes and aiding the production.

Xanadu, based on a critically disgraced movie starring Olivia Newton-John, integrates songs from the Electric Light Orchestra with Greek mythology. The story focuses on Kira, a Greek muse, who descends into Los Angeles in the 1980’s to inspire an artist, Sonny, to create the ultimate piece of artwork: a roller disco. While in LA, Kira begins to fall in love with Sonny, breaking one of Zeus’ rules for the nine muses. The small cast of nine flawlessly executed the high energy numbers while impressively rollerskating across the stage. In the best moment, Hermes delivers a message to Kira from Zeus with a warning to not break his rules (falling for a mortal, creating art, revealing herself as a muse to a mortal), but when Kira asks Hermes why Zeus would deliver this message to her, Hermes snaps his fingers and responds, “I don’t know yo’ life,” then struts offstage. The humor in this moment is characteristic of the entire show, resulting in a lively experience. 

Stages Theatre originally presented Xanadu in the summer of 2014. The two-day revival (Sept. 8-9) returned the original cast to the stage led by director and choreographer Mitchell Greco. The show flew through unstoppable action, running for 90 minutes with innumerable costume changes and countless moments of humor that made the night fantastic.