Campy in the best possible way, Xanadu is a wacky and light-hearted yet oddly heartwarming tale that pushes the limits of an audience’s willingness to suspend disbelief amid peals of laughter.
Xanadu, a Tony Award-nominated musical based on the 1980 film of the same name, delivers an inspiring story wrapped in a romantic fantasy adventure. The Workhouse Arts Center’s vision of the show, directed and choreographed by Stefan Sittig, captures his whimsical and breathtaking comedy.
Xanadu follows Greek muse Clio (Jessica Barraclough) as she travels to Earth disguised as an Australian Kira to help struggling artist Sonny (Pat Mahoney) overcome his creative block and achieve his dreams. Hijinks, both deadly and divine, ensue as the pair grow closer, eventually learning the value of pursuing their dreams despite potential obstacles.
The cast delivered magnetic performances. Each of the nine muses was brimming with personality. While Barraclough definitely embraced her role as chief muse-turned-daughter-of-“downstairs”, moving gracefully and charmingly with her soft, melodic voice, her sisters were equally up to the task of portraying their divine characters, filling the stage with an almost divine charisma every time they entered a scene.
Melpomene (Jolene Vettese) and Calliope (Audrey Baker), Kira’s scheming muse sisters, stood out throughout. Recalling the Greek myths from which their characters are drawn, Vettese and Baker portrayed the evil muses with an air of wicked grandiosity. As they pranced and sashayed across the stage, cackling and delivering every line with charisma and mischief, the two worked together to sell the entertaining naughtiness of their characters, enhancing the overall humor of the show.
Every minute of Xanadu was a joy to watch, delivering the show’s heartwarming story and inspiring themes with welcome humor and mirth. From sight gags and clever puns to eccentric mannerisms and fourth-wall breaks, nearly every scene leaves the audience nearly doubled in laughter.
By his hilarity, Xanadu maintained a surprisingly heartwarming tone, a welcome element attributable to its wonderful cast and the sheer chemistry they had with each other. From the deliciously wicked antics of Melpomene and Calliope to the budding relationship between Kira and Sonny, the cast painted every scene with believable charm and glee.
The songs of Xanadu also worked perfectly as the cast delivered vocally captivating performances. The musical elements of the show, led by Merissa Martignoni Driscoll, were thematic, enhancing each scene with lively riffs and melodic chords while complementing the characterization of the show’s star actors.
“Evil Woman,” Melpomene and Calliope’s main villainous song, showed off the cast’s vocal prowess as Vettese hit some impressive notes amid Baker’s hilarious (but equally impressive) adlibs and riffs. “Sudd
enly” was equally captivating as Barraclough and Mahoney wowed the audience with their sweet harmonies and conveyed their characters’ growing connection to each other.
The choreography in Xanadu was energetic and exciting, blending perfectly with the music. Sittig’s choreography was especially compelling when the muses danced in unison, while managing to maintain their individual quirks in every move. The cast gracefully glided across the stage, often quite literally as Barraclough and Mahoney spent much of the show on roller skates.
Linking choreography, singing and performances were the wonderful costumes of the show. Almost all of the actors acted as background dancers and stage fillers whenever their lead character was not needed, sporting bright and timely costumes each time. The robes the muses wore were particularly captivating as each muse wore a different colored Grecian robe cut to match their personality.
Globally, Xanadu was incredibly entertaining and an interesting watch. Filled to the brim with charisma and humor, the show boasts a well of creativity and charm that is sure to wow its audience, leaving them nostalgic for the 80s and hoping for its own weird divine magic.
Duration: 90 minutes without intermission.
Xanadu through June 11, 2022 at the Workhouse Arts Center—W-3 Theater 9518 Workhouse Way, Lorton, VA, 22079. Tickets ($20-$30) can be purchased in line.
The Xanadu program is online here.
COVID Safety: The Workhouse Arts Foundation, which operates the Workhouse Arts Center, highly recommend that all staff, artists, volunteers, students and patrons wear a mask when inside any of the Workhouse buildings.
Book by Douglas Carter Beane
Music and lyrics by Jeff Lynne and John Farrar based on the film Universal Pictures, screenplay by Richard Danus and Marc Rubel
Direction and choreography by Stefan Sittig
Musical direction by Merissa Martignoni Driscoll