Based on the film of the same name, Xanadu is the latest offering on the main stage at Southwark Playhouse; a slight variation of the original Broadway version. It also happens to be one of the campest, most colourful shows out there at the moment! I have to admit, I wasn’t expecting it to be my thing – but I went in with an open mind and I was definitely rewarded for it. Xanadu is the perfect choice for a giggly night out, and has a soundtrack that will stick in your head for days.
The show itself tells the story of Sonny Malone (Samuel Edwards), an aspiring artist living in LA, and his efforts to open a roller disco under the guidance of Muse Clio (Carly Anderson), disguised as Australian Kira. Sonny is naïvely optimistic, perhaps even a little dim, and played brilliantly by Edwards – he is adept at comedy, especially in the delivery of some rather dated phrases (my favourites are “jive turkeys” and “don’t harsh my mellow!”). He is complemented wonderfully by Anderson, who puts in a dazzling lead performance. She spends very little time offstage, and when on she impresses with an array of accents (one of which an hilariously exaggerated Australian accent), a variety of different styles of dance, perfect comic timing (“word”) and a singing voice to die for – even including a scat section in Whenever You’re Away From Me. This production surely has to be the springboard to even bigger things for her.
Lizzy Connolly & Alison Jiear as Calliope & Melpomene make a fantastically hysterical double act. Their highlight is definitely a powerful rendition of Evil Woman – Jiear on lead vocals, Connolly providing her own unique backing. The remaining Muses provide good support (Joel Burnan as Terpsicore, Nicholas Duncan as Thalia, Emily McGougan as Euterpe & Micha Richardson as Erato). Vocally strong and with many funny moments of their own – Pegasus immediately springs to mind! Nigel Barber is well cast as Danny (and, latterly, Zeus) – he portrays the money-focused businessman with ease, whilst keeping a glint in his eye.
I really enjoyed Nathan M Wright’s choreography, particularly in Dancin’. Musically the combination of 40s big band style with 80s hair rock is fun and cleverly done; the dancing just completes the spectacle. Another highlight is Kira & Sonny’s duet in Suddenly, involving a moving telephone box…
Good use is made of the space in the Large: there are three blocks of seating around the stage area, providing several entrances for the cast. In addition, there is a higher level that is occasionally used, and which also houses the band.
My verdict? Unashamedly tongue-in-cheek, with catchy tunes and lots of laughs – it has to be seen to be believed!
Xanadu runs at the Southwark Playhouse until 21 November 2015. Tickets are available online, by phone (020 7407 0234) or in person from the box office (Mon-Sat from midday).