When "Xanadu" the movie was released in 1980, it was not exactly an award- winner, unless you count Razzies. It was nominated for six of those.

The film barely broke even at the box office, and was met with pretty consistent "thumbs down" from critics everywhere. Some even viewed it as a sad end to the film career of the legendary triple-threat, Gene Kelly.

Its only saving grace was the film's soundtrack, which was a commercial hit, filled with chart toppers that fill the loops on any classic hits station today. I don't think anyone ever predicted it would see new life.

Fast-forward nearly 40 years, and the very same film not only has earned itself a cult following, but it also has been wonderfully re-imagined for the stage by Douglas Carter Beane.

Beane's work, which retains all of the music from the film soundtrack plus a few more, is in fact a clever mash-up of two cult films from the 1980s, "Xanadu" and "Clash of the Titans."

Both films are dripping with Greek mythology and provide the perfect backdrop for parody at its finest.

The simple plot follows the antics of sidewalk chalk artist Sonny Malone, whose current work, a rendering of the Greek Muses (daughters of Zeus) is just not coming together.

Frustrated, he decides life is no longer worth living. Clio, the youngest of the Muses observes this from high atop Mount Olympus and convinces her sisters to follow her to California to bolster his confidence with a little divine intervention.

There’s only one stipulation: Daddy Zeus requires that his Muses distinguish themselves from humans, so Clio disguises herself as a roller-skating Australian named Kira and helps Sonny identify his life’s purpose: to open a roller disco on the beach.

Among the Muses, sibling rivalry rears its ugly head as a jealous Melpomene convinces Calliope to help bring down their little sister (she’s daddy’s favorite) by pushing her to fall in love with her human, an act that is strictly forbidden.

This gloriously campy musical comedy, now playing in Illinois Wesleyan University's Jerome Mirza Theatre, is high-voltage, fourth-wall-breaking fun from start to finish, thanks to the dynamic creative team.

It is led by director Jean Kerr and features musical direction by Saul Nache, choreography by Maggie Cornyn and Jean Kerr, set design by Maddie Wolf, costume design by Connor O. Speck, sound design by Max Kleve and lighting by Dakota Kroes.

Jeffery Keller is irresistible as Sonny, as is Kara Ryan as Kira. Jessica McGrew and Dana Clouser are hilarious as the meddlesome troublemakers Melpomene and Calliope, and Jace LeGarde charms as Danny.

The talented, hard-working ensemble also features Braden Tanner as Terpsicore, Stefano Egleston as Thalia, Kira Rangel as Euterpe and Kamilah Lay as Eerato.

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Stiller is a freelance writer who reviews plays for The Pantagraph.


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