Spotlight on Reston Community Players’ XanaduBy Barbara Trainin Blank • Mar 3rd, 2014 • Category: Interviews
Reston Community Players: (Info) (Web)
Reston Community Center, Reston, VA
Opening March 7th; Through March 29th
$23/$20 Seniors, Students
Joshua Redford likes to joke that he only does shows with roller-skating.
He’s directing the upcoming musical, Xanadu, for the Reston Community Players. Two seasons back, he directed The Drowsy Chaperone for them.
Luckily, the 292-seat theater offers a nice-size stage and a lot of fly space for (partially) on-wheel productions. That’s in spite of the fact that Xanadu calls for a four-piece combo band on stage.
But the truth is, Redford’s directorial stints have not been limited to shows with roller skates. Last year he staged Legally Blonde: The Musical. Earlier this season he directed and produced a tribute to Rodgers and Hammerstein and to Andrew Lloyd Webber in concert.
What was the appeal for the Reston theater of Xanadu, which is based on the 1980 movie by the same name? Starring Olivia Newton-John and Gene Kelly in his last film role, the movie became a cult classic, despite being critically panned. (A Rita Hayworth vehicle, the 1947 film “Down to Earth,” in turn, inspired the movie.)
“With musicals, I’m always drawn first to the music,” said Redford. “Every number in the show is infectious, catchy, upbeat, and happy. There are no down points.”
Among the popular songs are “I’m Alive,” “Magic,” “Suddenly,” “Evil Woman,” “Suspended in Time,” and the title song. Xanadu‘s name is drawn from a poem called “Kubla Khan” by Samuel Taylor Coleridge and is a reference to a Chinese province.
The musical follows the journey of a magical and beautiful Greek muse, Kira, who descends from the heavens on a quest to inspire a struggling artist, Sonny, to achieve the greatest artistic creation of all time — the first Roller Disco! But when Kira falls into forbidden love with the mortal, her jealous sisters take advantage of the situation, with chaotic results.
Xanadu the musical is a tongue-in-cheek, affectionate spoof of the movie and one of the cases, Redford asserted, in which “the second incarnation of an art form is better than the first.”
The show uses the same score as the movie and essentially the same structure. Kira and Sonny receive help that is at first reluctant from Danny Maguire (the Gene Kelly role), a former big-band clarinetist who gave up his muse to become a real estate mogul.
More dramatic conflict has been added to the original plot in the guise of Kira’s evil sisters. “The musical uses the fact that the movie it’s based on was a flop,” the director added.
The characters sometimes do “preposterous” thing — or maybe, “fantastical” ones might be a better word — but are essentially “believable.” The musical is at heart a love story, Redford added. “The characters do what they do for love.”
An appearance by the Andrew Sisters and ‘80s rockers add to the humor.
But coming back to the roller skating… Russell Silber, who stars as Sonny Malone and also Zeus, had some skating experience. Evie Korovesis, who plays Kira and Clio, did not.
But Redford arranged for a skating workshop and played off the fact that Korovesis, despite having the needed comic touch and the right look for the part, was not the most adept on wheels.
“After all,” he laughed, “the script never said that Kira is a fabulous skater. We poke fun at that.”
Xanadu, which opened on Broadway in 2007, earned an Outer Critics Circle Award for Best Musical and a Drama Desk Award for Best Book. It was also nominated for two Tony Awards. The book is by Douglas Carter Beane, with music and lyrics by Jeff Lynne and John Farrar.
Xanadu runs March 7-29 at the Reston Community Center, 2310 Colts Neck Road, Reston, Virginia. Generally, the community theater presents two musicals and two plays a season. But when the rights to Les Miserables became available, the Players grabbed the opportunity and presented the mega-hit in January. Next on the schedule is Neil Simon’s Chapter Two.
Photos by Traci J. Brooks Studios
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Barbara Trainin Blank has been writing features, previews, and reviews about theater and the arts for some 25 years. A native New Yorker, she is a recent transplant to Maryland.