Oh, pity that poor journalist. He’s scouting around for a human interest story by interviewing audience members coming out of Xanadu (one of the eight shows unaffected by the strike) hoping to interview distraught theatre-goers whose Broadway dreams have been devastated by the strike and have been reduced to seeing something rubbish as a last resort.
Initially, he is thrilled to discover that the Whingers have come from London with the sole aim of taking in a ton of Broadway shows in 6 days. You can see it in his eyes – a spark which says “I’ve struck gold. These guys have spent a fortune travelling all the way across the Atlantic, only to be have their plans dashed to pieces by these selfish strikers.”
With something approaching sympathy in his voice he asks, “So, how are you feeling right now?”
“We’re on a real high. Fantastic, wonderful.” burble the Whingers as one. “It was brilliant”
He looks confused and glances back over his shoulder at the Helen Hayes Theatre to check that we’re talking about Xanadu.
And who can blame him? Who would have thought that the irredeemably rubbish 1980 movie Xanadu could be transformed into a top notch musical comedy?
But that’s what it is. As one of the characters says, “This is like children’s theatre for 40 year old gay people”.
Camp, knowing and very funny it is 90 minutes (no interval) of non-stop fun.
Not that it really matters, but the unlikely plot centres around Sonny (Cheyenne Jackson), a struggling pavement artist on the verge of suicide. One of the characters from his street daub of the Greek muses ( entitled “Ancient Greek Arty Chicks”) – comes to life in the form of Clio (Kerry Butler – wonderful).
Inspired by his muse who takes the guise of Australian Kira (cue hilariously bad Australian accent and convincing Olivia Newton-John singing voice) he decides to open a roller disco. Well of course.
Two of Kira’s fellow muses – Melpomene and and Calliope- try to effect Kira’s banishment to the netherworld by making her fall in love with Sonny (it’s forbidden to fall in love with a mortal, of course) and in doing so destroy Sonny’s dream of opening the rink in partnership with rich businessman Danny Maguire (Broadway vet Tony Roberts).
And that’s about it, but who cares? The whole thing is so gloriously funny, silly, knowing and – well – fun.
Who thought the Whingers could sit for so long with such rictus smiles on their faces. Their only worry now is that they’ve peaked too soon and everything else on or off Broadway will be a let down.
Jackie Hoffman and Mary Testa are hilarious as the evil muses, the latter playing up shades of Ethel Merman in her singing voice. There are plenty of in-gags and pops at film, theatre (“I’m confused. We’re muses of inspiration. What are we doing in a theatre?”), the creative bankruptcy of the eighties and Andrew Llloyd Webber. Even Maggie Smith gets a name-check. Heaven knows what the youngsters in the audience made of the references to Clash of the Titans. There’s even a gag about the ongoing Broadway strike thrown in for good measure.
As they were photographed with the wonderful star Kerry Butler after the show (Don’t ask. Butler insisted. And it was for charity and the Whingers were on such an adrenalin high they were feeling uncharacteristically charitable) Ms Butler said “I could see you two enjoying yourselves”.
And indeed they were. Their only disappointment was that they had to settle for second row of the orchestra (that’s yank speak for stalls) and not the “Sit with the Gods” on-stage seating, which would of course been their Broadway debut. Ah well they couldn’t have it all.
A fantastic evening. That journalist was definitely hanging outside the wrong theatre if he was looking for sob stories.