BY MINDY MATEUSZCZYK
Champlin resident Keith Rice is rolling back onto Chanhassen Dinner Theatres main stage in the Midwest regional premiere of, "Xanadu."
Based on the 1980 cult film classic by the same title featuring Olivia Newton-John and Gene Kelly, "Xanadu" the musical lovingly pokes fun at the film and the audience joyously comes along for the ride. The show revolves around Kira, a beautiful, magical Greek muse, who is sent on a quest to Earth from the heavens of Mt. Olympus to Venice Beach, California to inspire a young artist to achieve his greatest dream – to build the first roller disco. But when Kira falls into forbidden love with the mortal Sonny, her jealous sisters take advantage of the situation and chaos abounds.
"This show is very fun, very cute," said Rice. "We make so many jokes and poke fun at things that are just goofy."
But it’s more than that too.
"While the show is very light and fun, there is a deeper current to the whole show too," said Rice. "It doesn’t hit you very hard but there is an element to the show that suggests if you only follow your head, you might lose your heart. I dig that."
Rice explains the message as contemplating how you can lose things you love by concentrating only on things you think you want but are momentary.
"Money. Okay, it’s great and good to have to survive but love is forever," he said. Rice portrays the character Danny Maguire who lost the original love of his live because of his money-hungry greed.
"He realizes he missed out on something very important in life and gets a chance to live again and be happy again so he takes it," said Rice.
This sentimental message wrapped in zany antics and laugh-eliciting commentary is all done on wheels. That’s right. The actors zip across the stage in roller skates, creating a high intensity energy that Rice says makes for one of the fastest paced shows he’s ever participated in, particularly when it comes to behind-the-scenes work.
"There are some quick changes where we have only a minute to two minutes to do a full costume change, taking off and sticking roller skates back on hoping we don’t slip," he said. For all the backstage scrambling, Rice says it’s worth it because what is seen under the spotlight is magical. He credits Chanhassen Dinner Theatres’ Artistic Director and President Michael Brindisi for the inventiveness of the production.
""Xanadu" is a great representation of the newer Broadway works we want to produce," said Brindisi. "It’s fresh, new and at two-hours long, it packs a great entertainment punch. This will be the summertime theatre event not to be missed."
Brindisi saw "Xanadu" on Broadway in 2008.
"I had tickets for the matinee performance and was curious to see what everyone was raving about. As a musical traditionalist I wouldn’t have considered this something we’d ever do at Chanhassen. But throughout the entire production I couldn’t believe how much absolute fun I was having. I had a smile on my face for 110 minutes straight. And when it was over, I actually had such a great time that I wanted to buy a ticket to see it again that night." Brindisi said. "Choosing to produce "Xanadu" is about working to develop our audience through a process that brings new people in and also inspires our core audiences. This is a show everyone will be talking about."
The musical rolls along to the original hit score composed by pop-rock legends Jeff Lynne (Electric Light Orchestra) and John Farrar (producer, songwriter, arranger, musician and Olivia Newton-John collaborator), and includes popular 80s songs including: "Magic," "All Over The World," "Suddenly," "I’m Alive," "Evil Woman," "Have You Never Been Mellow" and "Xanadu." In "Xanadu" the character, Kira, exaggerates Olivia Newton-John’s unique song-stylings, providing the audience with hilarious "blast from the past" moments.
Written by one of Broadway’s master storytellers, Douglas Carter Beane, the hilarious roller-skating, disco-dancing adventure weaves an electrifying tale of endless fun for audiences of all ages. Beane wrote the book of "Xanadu" adding new plot twists and humor to parody the original film. He also won the Drama Desk Award for "Best Original Book of a Musical" for "Xanadu" and received a Tony nomination for the same. His other Broadway projects include "Sister Act," "Lysistrata Jones" and "As Bees in Honey Drown." Beane is also the artistic director of the Drama Department Theater Company in New York.
Artistic Director Michael Brindisi collaborates with gifted artistic creative team:. Tamara Kangas Erickson serves as choreographer and Richard Long as musical director. Designers: Nayna Ramey for scenery; Rich Hamson for costumes; Sue Ellen Berger for lighting; Russ Haynes for sound and Susan Magnuson for hair and makeup. Production Stage Manager is Robin Macgregor.
If you go…
"Xanadu" is appearing through Sept. 29 at Chanhassen Dinner Theatres. It is performed eight times weekly with evening performances Tuesday, Wednesday, & Thursday evenings $70; Friday $81; Saturday evening $81; Wednesday matinee $61; Saturday matinee $65; and Sunday $71. Show-only tickets are available no sooner than ten days prior to the performance. Student Rush tickets may be purchased one hour prior to the performance with valid student ID, and are based on availability. For tickets and information call the theatre box office at (952) 934-1525 or (800) 362-3515. For parties of 12 or more, contact Group Sales at 952-934-1547 or (800) 355-6273 or go online to www.ChanhassenDT.com.
The theatre has gone all out incorporating an interactive experience for some audience members who choose to reserve spots in the "X-Box" which includes being able to participate with items provided in a souvenir prop box such as bubbles and wands.
There are additional special experiences such as reserving seats directly on stage or participating in "Xanadu" themed disco dance parties. More information is available at the theatre website listed above.