San Diego Musical Theatre Climbs all the way to Mount Olympus and Stages XANADU

The Musical Production Shines in Fluorescence Showcasing New and Seasoned Local Talent 

A Blog View by Alejandra Enciso-Dardashti

The Cast of XANADU. Photo by Ken Jacques
San Diego Musical Theatre brings another classic to the stage, XANADU inspired by the 1980 movie starring Olivia Newton-John. The musical with a book by Douglas Carter Beane and music and lyrics by Jeff Lynne and John Farrar, tells a creative, twisted, god and muse-filled story of artist Sonny Malone (Jordan Markus) who audiences get to see before the show starts, creating a sidewalk mural of Zeus's daughters and Greek muses to a mean 80s music playlist. Sonny cannot find his full inspiration and gets suicidal. As the muses see this, Clio (Krista Feallock) the youngest, convinces her sisters to go down to Venice Beach and inspire Sonny but there are rules. Muses have to be disguised from mortals so Clio decides to change her name to Kira and wear legwarmers, roller skates and talk with an Australian accent. Another important rule, a muse cannot fall in love with a human which is what jealous older sisters Melpomene (Taylor Henderson) and Calliope (Wendy Waddell) plot over so her sister cannot reach Xanadu. Once Sonny meets Kira and they hit it off, he immediately starts seeing the brighter side and comes up with the idea of having a roller disco. He finds an abandoned theater that coincidentally is named Xanadu and is owned by real estate mogul Danny Maguire (Meghan O’Brien Lowery) so Kira convinces Sony to talk to him and ask if Maguire would donate the space. If Sonny can fix the place in one day, the space is 25% his. Clio is not having it and when she goes to negotiate with Danny, he recognizes or thinks he does but it is not Clio it is "Kitty" someone who he met and fell in love with years past. The evil sisters move their plans along and have Cupid arrow the couple so they fall in love and Zeus can vanish Clio...although, it seems that was happening already. Once all the muses help Sonny restore Xanadu, Danny backs out of the deal, Clio discloses her love and that she is a muse from Mount Olympus, and goes to trial with her dad. As Zeus is deliberating, being advised by his wives and their tales, Sonny climbs the Mount and assures he will fight for his love. Zeus pardons the deed and the couple and they live happily ever after in LA after breaking the final song Xanadu.

Jordan Markus as Sonny in XANADU. Photo by Ken Jacques

SDMT's production of this musical is very cute, glittery, and pink with a simple yet very practical set design by Rick Deussen. Michelle Miles's lighting design makes the colors, the key moments, and the skating pop mixing cold and warm tones to highlight the emotions. If having a full-on choreography while singing and acting is defying, adding the roller skate element is more so. And even though the skating in the piece does not involve complex moves, going around a small space and up and down a ramp is enough for me. Allison Bibicof's choreography also shines brightly through each cast member that also prints their own moves and swag to the steps. Chong Mi Land's costume design is sexy and god-worthy having everybody look amazing and accentuating as well their wonderful work directed by Jason Blitman with musical director Richard Dueñez Morrison. SDMT's productions are inspiring because they are usually choreography heavy and they showcase the up-and-coming young talent. All the sisters/muses are wonderful: Sarah Pierce as Erato is charming and playful with a beautiful voice. Cody Blanch as Thalia and Domo D'Dante as Terpsicore bring the flare, the beat, and the cool dance moves to the stage. The mean duo Wendy Waddell and Taylor Henderson make it hilarious and impressive. I had only seen Taylor in straight plays, not musicals. Her voice and range climb Mount Olympus in one reach, no stretch! The soundtrack is pretty good and catchy, my personal favorite was Evil Woman. Wendy Waddell I mean, is there something that this woman cannot do? She mixes in a funny, corky style that has audiences laughing off their seats. Annie Buckley as Euterpe is delicate and sweet with an amazing voice as well. Krista Feallock as Clio is fun and brings everyone together in a melodic way -not an easy task- as she is onstage the whole time. It was cool to see Jordan Markus back after playing Benny in SDMT's production of In the Heights. He too showcases some mean moves on and off skates as well as an amazing voice. I appreciated the gender switch having Meghan O'Brien Lowery playing Danny Maguire and Zeus. O'Brien is fun and humorous and can rock a suit. Brandon Boomizad's sound design did not disappoint, although the volume of the music was a tad low in the performance that I saw, the work pulls through. I especially appreciated the Offstage singers Daisy Martinez and Isabelle Jennings who are also understudies and swings, that was the cherry on top that makes the production even more real and more professional a La Broadway.

Meghan O'Brien Lowery and Krista Feallock. Photo by Ken Jacques

Xanadu is a feel-good, go-by fast, cute musical that will have audiences singing and feeling inspired. It is nice that this company stages the classics for people to enjoy locally. Not only do they produce great work but also, each production has part of its proceeds dedicated to de non-profit Breast Cancer Angels. SDMT through their campaign You Give. We Give thought of this fit because of actress Olivia Newton-John's longtime battle with breast cancer.  

You still have a number of opportunities to see Xanadu, the show closes on June 4. For performance dates and times click here 

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