Xanadu

Original Broadway Cast Recording

PS Classics, 2008

REVIEW BY: Michael Ehret

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 02/28/2008

First of all, I know that the movie version of Xanadu, starring Olivia Newton John, Michael Beck, and Gene Kelly is not a good movie. In fact, I can say without hesitation that it is a very bad movie.

But it is not so bad that the badness of it has elevated the musical to “campy” status. And, actually, for 1980s pop, the movie soundtrack -- as performed by Newton John and Jeff Lynne’s Electric Light Orchestra -- is actually quite pleasing in a “you-had-to-be-there-at-the-time” sort of way.

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So what in the name of Zeus happened between then and now to produce this horrendously awful awful awful cast album for the new Broadway production of Xanadu?

Oh, I can tell you exactly what happened.

A group of people who are far too “clever” got together and discovered, on a whim, that they all had seen Xanadu the movie, and they all agreed, because they’re so clever, that it was hideous. So in the grand tradition of theater people who think they are actually better than others, they began satirizing it and making fun of it, because that’s what clever people do. All in good fun, I am sure. I have done the same myself.

Unfortunately, somewhere along the way, someone actually gave them some money. And this sorry mess, which not only trashes the movie and the music but also the story it was based on, has now been foisted on the unsuspecting public.

Only this tripe does not have Newton John or Kelly (we won’t talk about Michael Beck) to salvage it and so it goes over-the-top, and then some, in an all out camp fest. Along the way they pull two non-Xanadu ELO songs (“Evil Woman” and “Strange Magic”) and one of Newton John’s signature tunes (“Have You Never Been Mellow?”) into the muck and mire for no other reason than to torture the listener even longer.

Taking popular music and re-imagining it for the stage, or the screen for that matter, is all the rage these days. Billy Joel did it with his music and Movin’ Out. The ABBA-esque musical Mamma Mia has been a huge hit on Broadway and all over the country. And two very successful reworkings of Beatles songs, the album Love and the movie Across the Universe, all show that this can be done to great effect.

This Broadway production of Xanadu, from what can be told by the soundtrack album, proves that the idea is not always going to work.

Run -- roller-skate if you must -- as far away from this as possible.

Rating: D-

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© 2008 Michael Ehret and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of PS Classics, and is used for informational purposes only.