Tonight is the night that Xanadu returns to San Diego. No, it’s not the fantastic stage musical that was here for two months last year. (That’s actually opening up tonight as well, but further up the road in Costa Mesa.) Tonight, it’s the Original Motion Picture version of Xanadu starring Olivia Newton-John and Gene Kelly that is playing here in San Diego.
The movie is notoriously known for being a bad movie, as it has a very loose plot, but despite the fact the movie bombed originally, it’s soundtrack was a massive hit for the record label. The collaboration between Electric Light Orchestra (ELO) and Olivia Newton-John (ONJ) on the title track, Xanadu has made the song one of Oliva’s biggest hits. Filling out the rest of the album are more fantastic songs by ELO and ONJ. Wisely, the songs weren’t put on the album in the order in which they appear in the movie, they were placed so that one side was the ELO side and the other side was the ONJ side. As the both acts draw different audiences, it made sure the fans of each artist could enjoy the work of their favorite if they weren’t as big a fan of the other.
I will admit I’m more an ONJ fan as my photo with Olivia can attest. It really took the stage version of Xanadu to help me appreciate the brilliance of the ELO side of the soundtrack album. I rarely ever played the ELO side of the album and now I am just as devoted to the ELO side as I ever have been to the ONJ side of the record. When it came time to add the album to my iPod, I decided to break with the album order and put the songs in the order in which they appear in the movie. And I’ve played that album a lot this year.
What I love about the movie is the magical element of Olivia Newton-John’s character of Kira. She is a means to inspire both Sonny Malone (played by Michael Beck) and Danny Maguire (played by Gene Kelly). I thought it was really cool that these muse ladies come alive out of a drawing and magically create inspiration. Perhaps my love of Star Trek filtered over to Xanadu when the muses became warp trails of light. The movie is loaded with favorite moments, such as Olivia skating around to the tune of “Magic,” the moment when the visions of both Sonny and Danny collide and the respective dancers from the 1940s style big band and 1980s rock style encounter one another and start dancing and singing together, and what I jokingly call the cult-like “paging the devil” scene at the end where the skaters in the Xanadu club start chanting “Xanadu” only to draw Olivia Newton-John to magically perform the song “Xanadu” for the grand finale.
Sure the movie has plot hole big enough for the Starship Enterprise to fly through. And some of the acting leaves much to be desired. Some of the costumes are completely outrageous and frightening. And some things just don’t make sense at all, but I love and adore the movie. I’m not so sure I would have loved the movie the same if it was anyone other than Olivia Newton-John as Kira. Even though Michael Beck was probably not the best choice for Sonny Malone, he does have an everyman sense about him that is something I can relate to. Perhaps his rather unspectacular performance gives the sense that anyone could be Sonny Malone (maybe even me) and be inspired to some form of greatness by a muse. It doesn’t have to be greatness on the scale of celebrity or historical significance known around the world, but something where the inspiration is true to the person’s passions.
In fact, this was really cemented home in the stage musical version of Xanadu where Douglas Carter Beane was tasked with creating a sensible plot of the movie for the stage adaption. It wasn’t until I saw the stage show that I realized the lyrics of “Magic” actually related to the plot of the show and in many ways is a song about the Law of Attraction, just allowing Olivia Newton-John to be the personification of that inspiration. The song is deceptively used in the movie as background music which just robs the song of it’s moment of significance in the movie, but I suppose I can forgive that oversight considering the song was a big hit for Olivia.
So I am looking forward to seeing Xanadu tonight on the big screen for the first time. Sure I could have easily stayed home and watched the movie on DVD, but I will be joining a bunch of friends for the screening and it’ll be an audience of folks who can appreciate Xanadu in all it’s campy glory. Although I will imagine I’ll probably end up sneaking up to see the stage show in Costa Mesa because I love that too. It’s gotta be a little bit more than coincidental that the movie is being shown in San Diego the same night the stage show restarts it’s tour, just a few miles up the road from San Diego.