When I was sent the press release announcing that American Theater Company was doing, as its final production, this season, “Xanadu”, as a final tribute to their late artistic director PJ Paparelli, I was deeply moved, yet concerned. This “camp” musical was a favorite of Paparelli, and knowing that the members of this company felt that he would watch over them from wherever it is he has “landed”. Evidently he is! This production is more powerful than any of the Broadway in Chicago productions, ever! Yes, even the more intimate road show that graced the intimate theater known as the Broadway Playhouse. This is one that should be seen by anyone seeking a fun night at the theater!
Smoothly directed by Lili-Anne Brown with solid choreography by Brigitte Ditmars, the musical written by Douglas Carter Beane (book) and Jeff Lynne and John Farrar (music and lyrics) is roughly 95 minutes of sheer magic on what might be called a roller stage. Yes, the building, or should I say the “black-box theater” known as ATC located at 1909 West Byron is now an oval surface with fencing around the flat surface that is where the roller skating takes place. The audience is seated around the stage area with a smaller amount of patrons on the North side, than on the South. The far side is where the musicians take their places and later in the show, many of the Gods set up their final scenes.
Don’t know the show? Is that possible?. “Xanadu” takes place in Venice (California, that is) during the 1980’s. An artists, Sonny Malone (deftly played by Jim DeSelm) has a dream. To create a place where all of the arts can converge and be in one mall type of setting. He would call it a “Roller Disco”. The posers that create his wall mural, nine female “muses”, come to life and their leader, Clio ( Landree Fleming is absolutely amazing in this role. In fact, as good as I thought she was in “Hairspray” at The Paramount, I think she shines even more in this character development. And she roller skates as well). With the aid of her “sisters”, except for two, she sets about to make an old nightclub, “Xanadu” come alive for his dream.
The hitch. If she falls in love with a “mortal”, she will lose her powers and her life will become normal, Two of the “sisters” work against her to bring this about. It also turns out the property where the building is, is owned by an older man, who many decades earlier also had a love of this same “muse”. Danny Maguire ( a smart portrayal by Aaron Holland, who later plays the God Zeuss). The sisters are played by Missy Aguilar, Kasey Alfonso, Karla L. Beard, Hanah Rose Nardone, James Nedrud and Daniel Spagnuolo (one hell of a tap dancer). The musical director is Aaron Benham (at the keyboards) with his band members; Cesar Romero (guitar), Ben Dillinger (bass) and Tony Scandora (percussion). This is a great band making the music work to perfection.
The songs in this show- “Xanaadu”, “All Over The World”, “I’m Alive”, “Evil Woman”, “Don’t Walk Away”, “Suddenly”, “Danin'”, “Have You Ever Been Mellow” and more will take your breath away as performed by this dynamic, powerful and energetic cast. An evening you will not want to miss! The tech people make the show complete; Arnel Sancianco (set design) Samantha C. Jones (costumes), Jeremiah Barr (props), Miles Polaski (sound) and Michael Stanfill (lighting and projections). As I left the theater, I could see PJ Paparelli’s face in my head. On his face, the biggest of smiles. American Theater Company has done him proud!
To get your limited opportunity to see this marvelous production, you need to check your schedule quickly a sit will only run through July 17th with performances as follows:
Wednesdays 8 p.m
Thursdays 8 p.m.
Fridays 8 p.m.
Saturdays 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.
Sundays 2 p.m.
Tickets range from $48-$58 and can be reserved by calling 773-409-4125, at the box office, 1909 West Byron Street, or online at www.atcweb.org
Students with valid ID can purchase tickets at $15 (in person only)
There is street parking in the area, some metered, some not. Sundays are FREE meter days
To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-Up and click at “Xanadu”.