‘Xanadu’ at Reston Community Players

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FOUR STARS
Reston Community Players presents Xanadu, a silly, decadent treat written by Douglas Carter Beane, with music and lyrics by Jeff Lynne and John Farrar. Joshua Redford directs this hilarious production alongside Musical Director and Conductor Matt Jeffrey.

Katie Cheek Ferguson and Emily Jonas. Photo by Traci J. Brooks Studio.
Katie Cheek Ferguson and Emily Jonas. Photo by Traci J. Brooks Studio.

As I take in the set, designed by Lawrence Gresko, I can’t help but like this production before it even begins. Of all two cultures to blend together, it’s ancient Greece and 1980’s Americana, with sleek marble columns set against the backdrop of Venice Beach, California. The set is constructed in tiers, giving the live orchestra plenty of space to play while seated above the main stage. Having live music for a production is always impressive, and the orchestration is nicely executed. Jon Roberts completes the setting with projected images that change throughout the plot, amongst them being a large chalk drawing and a lively carnival.

A quintessential 80’s piece, everything about this production is amped up. Lighting Designers Ken and Patti Crowley use neon settings for the most part, and then later, disco balls refract light into a million revolving spheres. Kathy Dunlap brings the 80s back with her costumes, managing to piece headbands, satin shorts, roller blades and leg warmers together in a single outfit. Also, as the majority of the characters are Greek Goddesses, sparkly, gauzy dresses also sweep the stage. The prom-like dresses and roller skates coupled with classic 80’s choreography by Chelsea DeRoche are enjoyable to watch.

Loveably dense artist Sonny Malone (an energetic performance by Russell Siber) laments about newest piece; a chalk drawing of the seven Greek muses. Frustrated and discouraged, Sonny leaves his sketch to craft himself a suicide note. In his absence, the muses come to life (with the catchy song, “I’m Alive”), and Clio, the leader of the Muses, sets off to save Sonny. Evie Korovesis shows nice comedic timing as Clio, who renames herself Kira and hastily disguises herself with a horrible Australian accent. It is Clio’s job to inspire Sonny’s art, and does so by wheeling around the stage in roller blades, giving him the idea to open a roller disco.

However, meddlers threaten to derail their new dream, from a greedy landowner Danny Maguire (Richard Durkin) to a couple of jealous sisters – the wicked Melpomene and oafish Calliope, wonderfully played by Katie Cheek Ferguson. Ferguson is hysterical in her rendition of “Evil Woman,” in which she plots her wicked scheme against Clio so that she may claim the title of lead Muse for herself. As a muse, Clio is forbidden to fall in love with a mortal, reveal her true identity, or create art herself, all of which will happen if Melpomene’s curse is effective (but is it?).

The cast of 'Xanadu.' Photo by Traci J. Brooks Studio.
The cast of ‘Xanadu.’ Photo by Traci J. Brooks Studio.

Flamboyant and bold, Xanadu is a great way to jump-start into the playful Spring season. While some performances and vocals could be better polished, the production is very entertaining, overall. Katie Cheek Ferguson and Emily Jonas  are easily my favorites, giving hilarious and solid performances. A particularly wonderful number mixes 80’s punk-rock music with 1930’s swing and tap-dance  in “Dancin.’’ The outrageous dance moves poke fun at themselves while still being a joy to watch, and the script delights in self-deprecation (“listen to us cackle and giggle…this is like children’s theatre for 40 year-old gay people!”).

Skate over to Reston Community Players’ Xanadu and put it down on your list of guilty pleasures and pick up a ticket today. This is one that you should not miss!

Running Time: 95 minutes, without an intermission (I would have liked one, though).

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Xanadu plays through March 29, 2014 at Reston Community Players performing at CenterStage Theater at the Reston Community Cemter- 2310 Colts Neck Road, in Reston, VA. For tickets, call (703) 476-4500, or purchase them onlineCenterStage is handicap accessible and offers listening devices for the hearing impaired. 

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

‘Xanadu’ Brings Sunny Charm to Reston, Opening March 7th By Diane Jackson Schnoor.



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