Metropolis concludes season with cotton candy tuner 'Xanadu'

“Xanadu” - ★ ★ ½

“Xanadu” is a deliciously silly show.

Kevin Wiczer, director of the Metropolis Performing Arts Centre revival knows it. So does his endlessly upbeat cast. And the audience, who chuckled throughout the 90-minute jukebox tuner on opening night, knew it too.

Adapted from the 1980 film flop turned cult classic starring Olivia Newton-John as a Muse who descends from Mount Olympus to inspire a struggling artist, the musical spoofs its source and pokes fun at musicals.

Sophia Mae Brenner plays a muse who comes to earth to inspired a struggling sidewalk artist in the stage adaptation of the 1980 film "Xanadu" at the Metropolis Performing Arts Centre. Courtesy of Jennifer Heim

Case in point: a character bemoaning theater's lack of creativity predicts one day producers will “just take some stinkeroo movie or some songwriter's catalog, throw it on stage and call it a show.” That sly self-awareness reflected in Douglas Carter Bean's wry dialogue is one of the best things about this campy confection, which references “Clash of the Titans,” Andrew Lloyd Webber and Cinderella.

As another character observed, “it's like children's theater for 40-year-old gay people.” Indeed. And everyone is in on the joke.

The spun sugar story centers on demi-goddess Clio, (pert, spunky Sophia Mae Brenner), who disguises herself as an Australian named Kira to assist chalk artist Sonny (the likable Ty Schirmer), an affably dim everydude who dreams of opening a combination arts center and roller disco.

Ty Schirmer plays a struggling artist in 1980 Venice, California, pining for the muse who inspired him in the stage adaptation of the 1980 film "Xanadu," running through Aug. 13 at the Metropolis Performing Arts Centre. Courtesy of Jennifer Heim

He has his eye on an old theater called Xanadu that belongs to real estate developer Danny Maguire (Tony Calzaretta). A former big band musician who gave up music (and his muse) for money, Danny intends to demolish the theater and replace it with condos unless Sonny and Kira can spruce it up in an afternoon.

And that's not their only problem. Jealous over their father Zeus' affection for Clio-Kira, evil sisters Melpomene (Elenia Dokos) and Calliope (Joey Prette) conspire to make Kira create her own art (forbidden under Muse rules) and to make her fall in love with Sonny (also forbidden).

Muses Melpomene (Elenia Dokos), third from left, and Calliope (Joey Prette), third from right, plot against their sister Clio in "Xanadu," running through Aug. 13 at the Metropolis Performing Arts Centre. Courtesy of Jennifer Heim

The action unfolds beneath mirror balls on Shane Cinal's set, a deconstructed Parthenon with chrome and neon accents. Also deserving mention are striking centaur and Pegasus props/puppets by Patrick McGuire.

Wiczer embraces the show's silliness, and so does his competent, enthusiastic cast. Brenner, Kayla Joyner and Morgan Schoenecker sound terrific as The Andrews Sisters in a 1940s flashback. The roller skating chorus impresses, and a puzzling flashback involving Calzaretta's Danny and Brenner's Clio/Kira is saved by J. Christian Hill's entertaining tap routine.

Sophia Mae Brenner and Ty Schirmer play a muse and the artist she is sent to inspire in the campy sendup "Xanadu," running through Aug. 13 at the Metropolis Performing Arts Centre. Courtesy of Jennifer Heim

However, “Xanadu” suffers from problems common to many jukebox tuners that try to shoehorn songs into a narrative. That's the case here. Songs by The Electric Light Orchestra's Jeff Lynne (“Evil Woman,” “Strange Magic,” “All Over the World,” among others) and songwriter/producer John Farrar (“Magic,” “Suddenly,” “Have You Never Been Mellow,” among others) don't really fit.

But that doesn't really matter. Not for this show. The theatrical equivalent of cotton candy, “Xanadu” is a sweet treat. It's worth a taste, but you wouldn't want to make a meal of it.

Location: Metropolis Performing Arts Centre, 111 W. Campbell St., Arlington Heights, (847) 577-2121,

Showtimes: 7:30 p.m. Thursday and Friday; 3 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday; 3 p.m. Sunday through Aug. 13

Running time: About 90 minutes, no intermission

Tickets: $10-$45

Parking: Nearby garage and street parking

Rating: For teens and older

COVID-19 precautions: Masks optional

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