Review – Xanadu, Southwark Playhouse

Tuesday 17 November 2015

17993_show_portrait_largeOh how we’ve waited.

Yes, we’ve waited and waited for the Godot that we feared might never arrive. It’s taken a full eight years for Xanadu to come to London; the the highlight of our 2007 sojourn to New York and not just because there was a strike on Broadway and it was one of the few shows still running. We praise the gods it still was.

Andrew even spent a not inconsiderable amount of time bending the ear of a well-known producer trying to convince her (a clue?) that this was the show she absolutely had to bring to London. He even put on his casting director’s hat by suggesting Sheridan Smith in the lead. Sadly bigger fish were in both their frying pans.

We were so pumped up with excitable expectation the Southwark Playhouse’s production could only lead to disappointment. Surely?

Well, in a word, no.

And it’s a very big NO from us.

Based on the 1980s very bad cult movie classic which starred Olivia Newton-John and Gene Kelly (book by Douglas Carter Beane, music and lyrics by Jeff Lynne and John Farrar) its daffy plot – not that you need worry about it too much – features Sonny (Samuel Edwards), a struggling street artist on the verge of suicide. One of the characters from his pavement creation of the Greek muses comes to life in the form of Clio (Carly Anderson, terrific) who becomes Kira doomed to speak in the most wonderfully and hilariously strangled Australian accent you’ll ever hear.

Inspired by Kira, Sonny quickly drops his plans to top himself and instead opts to open a roller disco. As you do.

Two of Clio/Kira’s fellow muses – Melpomene and and Calliope (Lizzy Connolly, splendid) – try to hinder Kira’s banishment to the netherworld by putting a spell on her to fall in love with a mortal, which is of course is forbidden by the gods and thus scupper Sonny’s dream of opening the rink.

Phew. Now we’ve got that out of the way we can reveal that like our previous visit we beamed gormlessly from beginning to end. The songs “I’m Alive”, “Magic”, All Over the World”, “Xanadu” etc are gloriously catchy and topped up by Newton John’s “Physical”, all of which are performed with such brio, snappy choreography (Nathan M. Wright) and hilarious comedy we just didn’t want it to end. How often do you hear us say that?

Director Paul Warwick Griffin has done a brilliant job bringing out all the camp silliness and hilarity with knowingly self-deprecating gags (“This is like children’s theatre for 40 year old gay people”) to ensure it’s laugh out loud throughout.

Was there anything to moan about? Of course there was. The Southwark Playhouse’s unreserved seating policy means you have to get in line ages before the show to ensure you get a decent seat. And there are bad seats. The show is played on a thrust stage with the audience on three sides so some visual gags must have been missed by those on the extremes.

We attended last week when a “technical hitch” meant we were left queueing for longer than usual. This presumably was due to the disappointing news that Alison Jiear would not be appearing as Melpomene (the previous night’s show had been cancelled). But this turned out to be quite an unexpected treat as Kay Murphy had been called the previous day and learnt and rehearsed what is a major role in 24 hours.

She did not put a foot wrong. Extraordinary. She delivered the songs, words and comedy so perfectly there is no way you could have known the story behind her performance.

A pre-show announcement by the director informed us that Murphy had attended the show on a previous night and casually mentioned, “That’s a part I’d like to play one day”. Be careful what you wish for Kay.

The run ends on Saturday and is rightly sold out. But we’d go again (and probably again) in a trice. Indeed Andrew has managed to snag a ticket to see it again before it ends but Phil will try not to hold it against him.

If someone would like to give us an Christmas present, will they gift us with the announcement of a transfer?

Sometimes 5 full glasses of wine just aren’t enough.



5 Responses to “Review – Xanadu, Southwark Playhouse”

  1. Glen Morranjie Says:

    I loved this to bits – huge camp fun and plenty of laughs. I didn’t know that Bing Crosby was in the original film though.

    Surely a must transfer, but I say this about I everything I see here and it never does.

  2. Wasn’t Bing, as good as he would have been. It was the incomparable Gene Kelly.

    Sounds like a fun show…why such a short run?

  3. webcowgirl Says:

    I’m off to my third viewing on Saturday – I just left feeling so joyous about life I wish I could see it nightly!

  4. surreymusic Says:

    I absolutely loved it. I think it’s great that Southwark do lots of excellent ‘worthy’ stuff and then a triivial but fabulously entertaining bit of froth like this. Maybe the National could learn from this…

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