July 2015

Xanadu:A summer escape

Author: Laura Jacobi | Photographer: TR media world

Summer is the time of year when most people search for an escape—escape from the cold winter (or the intense heat in our case), escape from the monotonous routine of the school year, escape from life…whether it’s for a week’s vacation or just the night. Summer gives most people an excuse to indulge in some frivolous fun to refresh or re-energize themselves.

The Arts Center of Coastal Carolina’s summer production of Xanadu provides the ideal setting to escape into a world of magic, mythology and music. Xanadu will be on stage at the Arts Center through July 26, perfectly in tune with summer’s lighthearted spirit of carefree fun.

The musical, a spoof of the eponymous movie of the same name, is packed with cheeky references, upbeat pop songs and wardrobe accessories that take you back to the late 1970s and early ’80s. That’s right! Grab your leg warmers, roller skates, sequins and spandex people; it’s time to party like it’s 1980. The story follows the journey of a magical and beautiful Greek muse Kira, who descends from Mt. Olympus to Venice Beach, California in 1980 on a quest to inspire struggling artist Sonny Malone.

The original film, starring Olivia Newton-John, is considered a cult classic— so bad, it’s good.” But whether you’ve ever sat through the movie or not, you will probably recognize some of its hit songs by the British ’80s phenomenon Electric Light Orchestra and John Farrar (composer of most of Olivia Newton-John’s hits) including “Magic,” “All Over the World,” “Suddenly,” “I’m Alive,” “Evil Woman” and “Have You Never Been Mellow.”

Kira comes to inspire Sonny to achieve the greatest artistic creation of all time, blending art, dance, music and athleticism by opening the first roller disco! The hilarious musical adventure is about following your dreams despite the challenges in front of you. Or in the words of Kira the Greek muse, “Have to believe we are magic. Nothing can stand in our way.” However, when she accidentally falls in love with Sonny, there’s drama in the disco and tension among the gods.

The cast of Xanadu

The show is directed and choreographed by DJ Salisbury, who returns to the Arts Center for his tenth show. Salisbury compares the show to period spoofs such as Airplane, Austin Powers and Anchorman. The melodramatic lyrics and satirical comedy used throughout the musical defined the late disco era, and the references are “universal and funny,” he says.

The actors who play the two young leads were thrilled to have the opportunity to don their roller skates again. Emma Degerstedt plays the lovely and inspiring Kira. Her other stage credits include Elle Woods in Legally Blonde, Aurora in Sleeping Beauty and Ariel in Footloose. Some might recognize her as a series regular on the Nickelodeon series Unfabulous.

Nathan Meyer, who plays Sonny, most recently performed with the original cast of the Tony award-winning Grand Hotel for its twenty-fifth anniversary at 54 Below in New York City.

“I’m happy our two leads had a strong sense of the comic style the show requires,” Salisbury said. “But each production offers new elements including set design, technical components and cast members, which thankfully generates fresh responses from the ‘veterans’ of the show.”

Nathan Meyer & Emma Degerstedt

Besides the young leads, the show includes strong performances by Kirby Ward, who plays Danny, an older, money-loving real-estate man whose encounter with Sonny and Kira reminds him he, too, had dreams of opening a grand music hall in his younger days. Together, Sonny and Kira convince him to open the roller disco nightclub called Xanadu. Ward is a director, choreographer and true entertainer who gives the magical and mythical show a pop of classic Broadway style.

The other supporting cast members are not merely backup dancers, but true characters. The timing and physical comedy of Sheri Sanders and Jodi Kimura, who play Kira’s conniving muse sisters, bring an added dimension to the performance.

Xanadu blends together parody, comedy and a fantastical score that allows the audience to step back in time, reminisce and have more than a few genuine belly laughs at this ridiculous and yet mesmerizing storyline.

The original production of Xanadu opened on Broadway in 2007 at the Helen Hayes Theatre. It was nominated for four Tony Awards in 2008 including Best Musical.

Performances are at 8 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays and 2 p.m. on Sundays. There is no performance on Saturday, July 4; an additional show is planned for Monday, July 6 at 8 p.m. Admission is $45 for adults and $31 for children. For tickets, call the box office at (843) 842-ARTS or visit tickets.artshhi.com.

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