Fringe Review: Xanadu


This ultimate, retro homage to the 1980 film that starred Olivia Newton-John and Gene Kelly finds the right balance of cheese, romance and fashion faux pas.

Presented by Davine Interventionz
Reviewed 5 March 2014

Stand by for an inevitable reprise of the sold out Fringe season of Xanadu. It’s the ultimate, retro homage to the 1980 musical-fantasy film that starred Olivia Newton-John and Gene Kelly.

Turned into a Broadway musical circa 2007, local director David Gauci demonstrates beyond doubt why this South Australian premiere is long overdue.

The book of the stage play is by Douglas Carter Beane with music and lyrics by Jeff Lynne and John Farrar. Straying from the film with a sub-plot involving evil sisters, this camp comedy finds the right balance of cheese, romance and fashion faux pas.

Behold mullets and head bands; leg warmers and roller skates, as a family of Greek muses erupt from a mural (pictured) to inspire an artist. The 18-strong cast is lead by the divine Kate Dempsey as Kira who seems to channel Olivia Newton-John in both song and faltering Aussie accent. Performing almost entirely on roller skates, Dempsey is the definition of a star.

Beside her, Lindsay Prodea is both excellent and adorable as the dim-witted artist Sonny Malone; Brendan Cooney is in fine form as real estate mogul Danny Maguire; and both Megan Humphries and Jenny Scarce Tolley threaten to steal their scenes as Kira’s two deliciously funny evil sisters. Tolley does, in fact, steal her scene on Mount Olympus playing the additional role of the Greek Goddess of Love, Aphrodite.

The comedic timing of the cast is stellar, particularly from the leads, with none falling into the trap of becoming too cartoonish despite the high camp. The harmonies are fantastic, as are the solo numbers, most of which come from the film, complemented by a few additional songs also written by the Electric Light Orchestra. Kudos to Musical Director Emma Knights.

Shenayde Wilkinson-Sarti’s choreography is energetic and suitably reminiscent of the era. She does well to contain the dance numbers on the small floor space without seeming awkward and, presumably, at choreographing some of the skating routines too.

Producer and Director David Gauci is the star behind the scenes for not only putting together this most excellent homage, but for the practical set design which looks good and keeps the action flowing. The murals are an additional star attraction.

The all-too-short Fringe season of Xanadu is sold out, but the only miracle greater than Greek muses coming to Earth would be the absence of a reprise season sometime in the foreseeable future. To misquote a song, you have to believe me, it’s magic.

Reviewed Rod Lewis

Venue: Star Theatres, 145 Sir Donald Bradman Drive, Hilton
Duration: 90 minutes
Bookings: Season sold out


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