by DICK KEREKES & LEISLA SANSOM
The Players by the Sea School of the Arts, headed by Education Director Barbara Colaciello, presented a two-day run on August 12-l3, of the Broadway musical Xanadu.” Players gave the students the thrill of participating in a first class production by providing a top notch production team featuring the talents of Erik DeCicco as Director, Marisa McInnes-Taylor as Choreographer, and Sarah Marino as Custume Designer. Steven Foster debuted as lighting designer at Players under the tutelage of Technical Director Jim Wiggins.
Patrick Richart designed the set, utilizing the set from the recent production of Tommy. Players provided a professional band under the musical direction of Aaron Marshall on keyboard/guitar with Lindsay Thompson on keyboard and Chris Poland on percussion.
If you have a tinge of gray in your hair, you may recall the 1980 movie of the same name with Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta. You may remember it if you were about ten years old then. Yes it was big with the very, very young, but it won a Razzie Award which guaranteed it a place in the worst movies ever hall of fame. The bad rap did not discourage Jeff Lynne, John Farrar and Douglas Carter Beane from resurrecting Xanadu into a successful Broadway musical which opened in 2007 and received four Tony nominations.
This funny musical combines the Venice, California roller skating fad with Greek mythology. Sonny (played by tall and good looking Ponte Vedra High school senior Brian Healy) is a young artist seeking some direction in his craft. The Greeks, lead by Zeus (Daniel
Wiggins), apparently feel sorry for Sonny and send demi-godess Clio to give him inspiration as his Muse. On earth Clio is known as Kira and performed by Katie Sacks (in the Olivia Newton-John role). This was really a breakout role for Ms. Sacks whom we have seen in many roles on various stages since she was in grammar school and possibly before. Katie can belt out the songs with her wonderfully trained voice and she did while on roller skates. You are
going to see more and more of this talented Douglas Anderson student.
Sonny who is charming but not too bright, wants to open a roller rink art center in Los Angles and manages to talk Danny McGuire, owner of the old Xanadu Theatre (played
with authority by Ian Ramos), into renting the theatre for a percentage of the profits.
Clio has two jealous sisters, who have placed a curse on her, designed to have her fall in love with Sonny, a definite no no because Greek Gods are prohibited from having
affection for humans!! Portrayed by Emily Suarez as Pelpomene and Anna Wheeler as Calliope, these talented singers and comediennes provided a lot of the humor in the show with their outrageous antics.
A plethora of other characters with Greek sounding names made frequently appearances as Clio’s other sisters and their entourage, dancing and singing. Others in the
cast included: Grace Velez, Shannon Scolforo, Alaina George, Gena Heylock, Anna Villena, Lana Mullins, Amelie Voss, Kelvy Alter, Isabel Dondero, Nadia Biernack, Haley Grammer, Jackson Alter, Kalli Shiftkey, Hope Reister and Hannah Linkenauger.
It looked for a while like a toga party with mostly classical white drapery, headbands and garlands, but that changed when the venue changed from Mt. Olympus to Los
Angeles, and the aspiring roller disco stars appeared in 1980’s garb with tops, short skirts, and leggings in a riot of bright colors.
The well known (in 1980 anyway) songs included the classic “Xanadu,”along with “Evil Woman” and “Strange Magic.” All were well performed.
If you missed this evening of campy nostalgia, and you don’t want to rush out and try to find a copy of the 1980 movie, we will tell you there is a happy ending!! The mostly
adult audience loved it, and it was certainly much funnier than the original movie.
Remarkably, Director DeCicco and the staff put the whole show together in just
three weeks. It was a polished performance and the energy and enthusiasm the cast put into the show was evident. Judging from the talent we saw on that stage the future of theatre for Jacksonville looks bright.
by DICK KEREKES & LEISLA SANSOM