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We are in "Xanadu"

By Illinois Valley Community College | Apr 12, 2013

Illinois Valley Community College’s Theatre Department performs “XANADU – The Musical” at St. Bede Academy’s Little Theatre beginning April 19.

The performances, underwritten by Illinois Valley Cellular, are 8 p.m. Fridays April 19 and 26, 8 p.m. Saturdays, April 20 and 27 and 4 p.m. Sundays, April 21 and 28.

“When Mount Olympus meets Venice Beach, add muses, gods and goddesses, a surfer dude, a pop score by Electric Light Orchestra, 1940s swing and a very large loving tribute to Olivia Newton-John, then wrap it in a roller disco and pay tribute to one of the worst films of all time, stage magic just naturally happens,” said director and choreography Don Grant Zellmer.

The lampoon of the 1980s movie is a non-stop barrage of ancient muses, both good and evil, mingling with 1980 characters to create a roller disco. Many say that “Grease” launched Olivia Newton-John‘s movie career, and “Xanadu” ended it just a few years later.

Zellmer says, “Love it or hate it, the stage show is one of those rare guilty pleasures that just makes one happy. What more can you want from a musical than to leave the theatre grinning?” Zellmer steps into the tap-dancing part of Danny, played by Gene Kelly in the movie which was his last film.

Vocal Director Norman Engstrom steps into the part of Zeus as well. “Our running joke,” says Zellmer, “is that nobody 60 years old auditioned for the Gene Kelly part, and nobody 10,000 years old auditioned for Zeus, so…”

Emily Hanck plays Kira, the Newton-John part, complete with Australian accent, roller skates, and leg warmers. She is the muse that inspires the Venice Beach sidewalk artist, Sonny, played by Andrew Loebach. “Luckily,” says Zellmer, “both came in with the ability to skate - a big part of the show.”

The ELO score is tweaked to advance the story. The two evil muses, Adrienne Van Horn and Jessica Nelson, plot to lay a curse on Kira and Sonny to fall in love thereby taking Kira’s muse powers. Meanwhile, on Mount Olympus, a nod to Olivia is given when Zeus’s wives, Medusa, a centaur and a cyclops sing “Have You Never Been Mellow?” to Zeus.

“Xanadu - The Musical” was a surprise hit on Broadway several years ago and is a relatively new property just recently released. It has only been performed in the Chicago area, and, “To our knowledge, this is the first community college production of it in the Midwest,” said Zellmer. Dr. David A. Kuester is producer, and Jenna Stinson is the technical director and costumer.

“It’s a challenge in some ways,” said Kuester, “as many of the characters wear at least three wigs, from goddesses to 1940s Andrews Sisters styles. The show presents some logistical challenges as well, as it will be performed at St. Bede’s Little Theatre while the IVCC Theatre is under construction.

“Luckily,” said Stinson, “it’s a unit set that we use throughout, but then we add projections, Pegasus, and other non-traditional elements that aren’t easily borrowed from other theatres.”

The costumes span three eras: ancient Greek, 1940s, and 1980s. And, there are the roller skates that come and go quickly.

“The skating members of the cast are becoming masters of getting in and out of the skates in record time,” said Zellmer.

The cast also includes The Muses: Hannah Monroe, John Eppard, Dakota Winchell and Elizabeth Voiti. The Company plays a variety of roles: Tammy Schrowang, Rhodes Garland, Jessie Winchel, Cheriz Kunkel, Kyle Russell and Norma Little.

Tickets are $15 and may be reserved by calling the Xanadu ticket line at (815) 795-0938. For information, contact Zellmer at don_zellmer@ivcc.edu.