It’s Magic! Meet the Cast of Reston Community Players’ ‘Xanadu’ Part 1: Richard Durkin, Evie Korovesis, and Russell Silber by Diane Jackson Schnoor

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Xanadu Opens March 7th

 Reston Players’ Light-Hearted Cure for the Winter Blues

Sick of the never-ending winter? Find your leg warmers, grab your roller skates, and travel back in time with the Reston Community Players to sunny California in the 1980s for their upcoming production of the irreverent frothy musical Xanadu.

The muses surround Kira and Sonny (from l-r: Emily Jonas, Evie Korovesis, Russell Silber, and Katie Cheek). Photo by Traci J. Brooks.
The muses surround Kira and Sonny (from l-r: Emily Jonas, Evie Korovesis, Russell Silber, and Katie Cheek). Photo by Traci J. Brooks Studios.

Xanadu is a light-hearted tongue-in-cheek musical adventure based on the 1980 cult classic Olivia Newton-John/Gene Kelly film and featuring an award-winning book by Douglas Carter Beane. It tells the story of Kira, a magical and beautiful Greek muse who descends from the heavens to inspire struggling artist Sonny to achieve the greatest artistic creation of all time – the first ROLLER DISCO! Chaos abounds as Kira defies the laws of Zeus and falls in love with Sonny while struggling to outwit her jealous sister muses.

The score retains the hits from the film and also includes new arrangements by Eric Stern of “I’m Alive,” “Magic,” “Suddenly,” and “Dancin’,” as well as interpolating two classic Electric Light Orchestra songs, “Strange Magic” and “Evil Woman,” plus John Farrar’s “Have You Never Been Mellow.”

This week, DCMTA writer Diane Jackson Schnoor spoke with the actors playing Kira, Sonny, and Zeus and Danny in the upcoming Xanadu.

Richard Durkin, originally from Chatham, MA, will be playing the dual roles of Zeus, the chief god of Mount Olympus, and Danny, the king of Los Angeles real estate. He last appeared at Reston Players in The Drowsy Chaperone as Underling, the singing and dancing butler. With the Elden Street Players (ESP), Richard has performed in MedeaHamletThe Iceman ComethThe Violet Hour; and Glengarry Glen Ross, and in 14 ESP Theatre for Young Audiences shows.

Evie Korovesis of Alexandria, plays Kira, the muse who inspires the roller disco. She was most recently seen in the WATCH nominated productions of Avenue Q with Dominion Stage and A Chorus Line with The Arlington Players. Her past shows with Reston Community Players include The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, Lend Me a Tenor, I Love You Because, and Legally Blonde. Evie has her friends and family to thank, especially her five year-old cousin, Charleigh, for telling her she was skating too slow. When not rehearsing, she spends her evenings skating around her apartment and speaking in a painful Australian accent. Evie’s personal theme music for this show is “Brave” by Sara Barielles.

Russell Silber of Falls Church, VA plays the struggling artist Sonny Malone. Russell has performed in everything from opera to murder mystery in theaters all over Southern Maryland, Washington D.C., and Northern Virginia. This season he had the pleasure of sharing the stage with Xanadu cast mates Sean Cator and Evie Korovesis in the WATCH nominated A Chorus Line at The Arlington Players. Before that he had a blast creating the role of Christopher Robinson for Saving Private Poo at Landless Theatre’s Third Annual Mashup Festival, which he hopes to reprise this summer at the DC Fringe Festival.  He was also honored for his performance as Leonard Vole in Witness for the Prosecution by dcmetrotheaterarts.com in their Their 2012 Best Actors in a Play Honors.

Diane: What made you want to be part of Xanadu?

 Sean Cator (Young Danny) taps while Richard Durkin (Danny) and Evie Korovesis (Kira) look on. Photo by Traci J. Brooks Studio.
Sean Cator (Young Danny) taps while Richard Durkin (Danny) and Evie Korovesis (Kira) look on. Photo by Traci J. Brooks Studio.

Richard: When Director Josh Redford noted that he was looking for someone more “mature” to play the role of Danny/Zeus, I just had to audition. Not everyone gets to be the #1 Greek God, and an LA real estate tycoon in one show! It also gives us all the chance to relive a bit of the 80s again.

Evie: I love comedic roles and this show is full of them! I think this is a great show for people to come see because so many people know the movie Xanadu. Whether they liked it or not, everyone remembers Olivia Newton John, her roller skates and the cast album! This show makes fun of that movie and has all of the iconic ridiculous moments live on stage!

Russell: My first exposure to Xanadu was walking through Times Square with my mom during a family trip to NYC in either 2007 or 2008. I saw a huge billboard with hot neon lettering and various actors in roller skates and 80’s clothing and thought, “What the heck is that? It looks ridiculous.” I didn’t give the show a second thought until Signature Theatre in Arlington put on Xanadu back in 2012. I remembered my initial reaction to that billboard in Times Square but bought a couple of tickets on Goldstar anyway based on Signature’s reputation and just plain morbid curiosity.Their production won me over instantly and I added Sonny Malone to my bucket list of roles that night. I honestly didn’t expect the show to be as funny and impressive as it was. I think Kira alone has to go through at least 3 separate accents, and must roller skate, tap dance, sing most of the show, and be both genuinely funny and alluring at the same time. The whole show is like that.

The ridiculous premise and catchy pop rock score trick you into thinking it’s a simple show, but there’s a lot going on there. It’s been a fun journey, finding all the little moments that make it work with such a talented and adventurous bunch. How could I pass up the chance to roller skate on stage, belt out songs I’d been singing along to in my car for almost two years, and bring to life such a goofy and endearing couple like Kira and Sonny?

What is something that surprised or excited you about Xanadu? What might surprise your audience?

Richard: In addition to the singing and dancing, I think the audience will enjoy seeing how much skating can take place in a relatively small space.

Evie: Something that surprised me was the fact that I had to skate the entire show and do an Australian accent for almost 3/4 of the show! The nice thing is, both are supposed to be done poorly, because what Greek demi-goddess can do a perfect Australian accent and roller skate?!

Russell: I love when I go to see a show I know next to nothing about and it wins me over. In this era of spoilers, social networks, and online reviews it’s hard to be genuinely surprised by any form of entertainment, but aside from that billboard in Times Square,I really knew nothing about Xanadu except that it involved roller skating on stage and the 80s.

Honestly, this show is so much better than it deserves to be. It’s a musical based on an almost forgotten box-office bomb that essentially blew up the movie career of Olivia Newton-John. I think audience members will initially be surprised by the number of classic songs they recognize from the score, but I’m just so taken with how much the book writer Douglas Carter Beane was able to mine from the original movie’s creaky skeleton to twist around and subvert into a show filled with so much humor and heart.  It would have been easy for the show to simply lampoon a bad movie but that wouldn’t resonate with audiences the way this show has. Through all the jokes, 80’s references, and jabs at the film, there’s something lovable and endearing about these goofballs. I think audiences will be surprised at the stakes these characters deal with and how much you root for them to succeed, even as you’re laughing at them.

What do you love most about your character?

Evie: I LOVE how ridiculous Kira is. She is full of comedic moments! When she realizes the connections between what is happening in her life and to the dream of Xanadu that Zeus has shown her, she becomes so distraught, but in a very valley girl way! This is one of the most fun characters I’ve gotten to play, because there is no limit to how silly Kira can be. She is the leader of the muses, yet is the youngest, and I think you really get to see that on stage. She is so fun to play with and discover. The funny part is I find a lot of myself in her — the goofy part at least!

Russell: On a technical level, I both love and hate the range of Sonny’s songs. It’s a blast to wail these songs, but when you add in skating and choreography and adrenaline it takes some planning to make sure there’s enough juice in the tank for some pretty high pop vocals. I have absolutely loved the skating. I played league roller hockey in high school and have skated, whether on ice or wheels, for most of my life. I think one of my favorite rehearsals was when we learned skate tricks and skated around like we were at a roller disco for hours in the rehearsal hall. I love how deceptively literate and learned Sonny reveals himself to be even when he’s acting the fool. It reminds me of Sawyer on Lost. He’s another character who is wiser and more well-read than he appears due to external appearances.

What has been most challenging for you in shaping your character and performance?

Richard: My nature is not to be gruff and greedy, so it was a challenge to capture 35 years of resentment in my portrayal of Danny. But then if he had just followed his heart and gone after the girl, this would have been a very short show.

Evie: This is the easiest question: LEARNING HOW TO ROLLER SKATE! I NEVER roller skated before this role. Okay, so we all went to the roller rink for birthday parties when we were younger, but I was the one who sat on the side and watched or held on to the side railing going two miles per hour. So when Josh asked me to do this role, I did not have any belief that I could do it – but thankfully and luckily – everyone around me did believe in me and trust that I could do it, so that was it. I had to set aside my fears and do it. It’s been a journey but I’m so proud of myself for trying something out of my comfort zone in a place where I feel the most comfortable: on stage.

The cast of Xanadu prepares to skate into your hearts. From left to right: Alexa Yarboro, Emil Jonas, Sam Nystrom, Evie Korovesis, Richard Durkin, Russell Silber, Sean Cator, Katie Cheek, and Megan Hubbell. Photo by Traci J. Brooks Studios.
The cast of Xanadu prepares to skate into your hearts. From left to right: Alexa Yarboro, Emil Jonas, Sam Nystrom, Evie Korovesis, Richard Durkin, Russell Silber, Sean Cator, Katie Cheek, and Megan Hubbell. Photo by Traci J. Brooks Studios.

Russell: The most challenging part of Sonny has definitely been the shorts. I’ve had to do a lot of squats to make sure I fill out those short jean cut-offs come March 7th. In all seriousness though, I think the hardest part of Sonny to master is his optimism. We live in an increasingly cynical world it seems. As I get older, I find it harder and harder to remain optimistic, especially when it comes to art and the place it holds in my life. I connect a lot with those early scenes where Sonny contemplates giving up his art…I did for a time after I graduated college. It’s still a fight to keep acting and art a part of my life and I envy how easy Sonny makes it seem. He does have a muse to help him out, though. It took a while for me to buy in and let myself be as chipper and unabashedly enthusiastic as Sonny has to be. I found his voice first. There’s this warm, resonate, sing-song quality with a little bit of surfer-dude to Sonny’s voice that disarms you and makes you want to give him what he wants. After I found that, his optimism and confidence seemed to come easier and everything else fell into place.

What makes this production of Xanadu special?

Richard: The show has eight great singers and dancers, one character actor, a self-deprecating sense of humor, and songs that will stay in your head when you leave the theatre. It is an Postexuberant experience.

Evie: What makes this production special to me is the fact that both Director Josh Redford, and Music Drector Matt Jeffrey are good friends of mine outside of the theater. They are both so great at what they do, so I was excited to work with both of them in this production. Plus some of my very good friends are in the cast and it’s been fun being with them and doing another show together….even if they video tape me in my skates and send it to friends.

Russell: It’s been a long, harsh winter. Xanadu is dripping with California fun and sun that sets it apart from all the beautiful but ultimately sad and tragic musicals that have dominated this season around town. Xanadu wears its zany and unapologetically ridiculous heart on its neon-colored sleeve. It reminds me of some of my favorite shows like Bat Boy and Urinetown in that it finds that magic balance between not taking itself too seriously but still respecting the honesty and stakes of its characters. I’ve had so much fun working on this show and I hope you have as much fun grooving in your seats. Plus it’s got roller skating…on a stage. And leg warmers. What other show this year has that?

Xanadu is produced by Daryl Hoffman and Carol Watson.

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Xanadu plays from March 7-29, 2014 at Reston Community Players performing at CenterStage – 2310 Colts Neck Road, in Reston, VA. CenterStage is handicap accessible and offers listening devices for the hearing impaired. Performance are at 8 PM on March 7th, 8th, 14th, 15th, 21st, 22nd, 28th, and 29th, with 2:00 p.m. matinees on March 16th and 23rd.

For tickets, call the box office at (703) 476-4500 x 3, or purchase them online.


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