by Miles Howard
| May 03, 2012
Photo: GLENN PERRY PHOTOGRAPHY
Great movies don’t necessarily make great musicals. Exhibit A: Spider-Man, which earned cheers on the big screen but jeers as Broadway’s actor-fracturing Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark. Since the quality of the source material is evidently not predictive, what about those bottom-of-the-barrel flicks you find next to discounted food products at Walmart? Is there a place on a Broadway stage for Bulletproof with Gary Busey? Probably not, but history — and the theater world — has been far kinder to 1980’s Xanadu. The cinematic stink bomb was so awful, it inspired the creation of the Golden Raspberry awards, now an annual nod to the worst of the worst. But the Razzie winner was resurrected to surprising glory in 2007 by playwright Douglas Carter Beane, and now the Tony-nominated musical is coming to the BCA’s Calderwood Pavilion (527 Tremont Street, Boston, 617.426.5000) for a month-long engagement.
Like the awesomely kitschy love child of Solid Gold and The Iliad, Xanadu marries Greek mythology with the same colorful roller-disco culture memorialized in Boogie Nights (minus the cocaine addiction). Beane’s reworking places us in Los Angeles’s Venice Beach neighborhood, circa 1980. A fateful meeting between suicidal street artist Sonny and a Greek muse named Clio — disguised as an Australian-accented roller hottie named Kira (played by Grease girl Olivia Newton-John in the flick) — leads to the duo opening a roller disco and enjoying a passionate love affair. But when Clio incurs the wrath of her divine sisters, the stage is set for a climactic Mount Olympus battle with the big guy himself: Zeus.
Xanadu made its 2007 stage debut at New York City’s Helen Hayes Theatre and has since been performed everywhere from Seoul, Korea, to the boardwalk of Jersey’s Asbury Park, pulling in more cult fans with each run. Featuring an infectious ’80s-disco score and lyrics from Electric Light Orchestra’s Jeff Lynne and Aussie producer John Farrar, the show is a visceral valentine to the era of neon leg warmers. You can catch the Boston production from SpeakEasy Stage Company from May 11through June 9. Grab tickets ($25–$57) at bostontheatrescene.com.