One of the highlights of 2008 for me was the opening of Xanadu at the La Jolla Playhouse. The stage show that became a surprise hit on Broadway and was even nominated for a few Tony Awards, made its debut as a touring show in San Diego. Following San Diego, the show moved to Chicago and then played a brief stint in Tokyo before going on a brief hiatus for a few months, but now the tour is back on the road starting in Costa Mesa, California, just a short drive from San Diego.
I immediately fell in love with the show when I first saw it and then proceeded to see it several more times before it’s run at the La Jolla Playhouse finished it’s two month run. I took several friends to see the show and one of the highlights was when I took my mom to see the show as I was able to get on stage seats for that performance. I didn’t tell my mom until we got there that we’d be sitting on stage, she wasn’t so amused by that, but we had a good time and she enjoyed the show.
With the return to Southern California, I definitely wanted to see the show again, and since my dad was back from doing work in Austin, Texas and my grandfather was in town it seemed like a good opportunity to take them to the show. I asked my mom if she wanted to see the show again, if we did the Christmas Eve matinée show and she said she was interested but had too much to do to prepare for my brother and his wife’s arrival and Christmas to take time out to see the show. But she did like the idea of me taking my father and grandfather to the show so that she could get some things accomplished while they were out of the house. So I booked the tickets for my dad, grandpa, and I to see Xanadu on Christmas Eve at 2 pm.
As it tends to get harder to find good Christmas gifts, I thought this would make a fun and memorable experience to share with my dad and grandfather that they would expect. When we got there, the seats I had booked got upgraded to Orchestra level seats as the show wasn’t sold out. My dad asked how come the tickets weren’t stage seating tickets like I had taken my mom to a year ago, and I said, they weren’t listed on the site I bought the tickets from. I said the show is just as good from the theater seating as it is from the stage.
I wasn’t sure how they’d like the show, but both had a great time and found it to be entertaining, even though neither one is that familiar with the original movie other than the fact they knew Olivia Newton-John was in it. They thought the cast was amazing. Max Von Essen who played Sonny Malone, and Larry Marshall as Danny Maguire played the same roles in San Diego last year. Elizabeth Stanley had also resumed her role as Kira/Clio however, the role was played by Tiffany Topol during the Christmas Eve matinée. Tiffany was also on in the production last year as the understudy for Kira. This was my first time seeing Tiffany substitute for Elizabeth Stanley and she was very good.
My grandpa thought it was really good that the show didn’t need an intermission, it just went from start to finish in roughly an hour and half and stayed interesting the whole way through. He enjoyed it a lot. My dad enjoyed it as well. And I really enjoyed having the chance to see the show again.
The last time I saw the show was the matinee on New Year’s Eve 2008 and this matinee on Christmas Eve 2009 essentially allows me to bookend 2009 with Xanadu performances. And I played the original movie soundtrack so much during the course of the year, each of the 10 songs from it has taken a place in the top 25 songs played on my iPod. The first time ever that a whole album has appeared on my top most played songs list in iTunes. If it wasn’t for the stage show there would never have been a chance of the Electric Light Orchestra songs to hit the top 25 as I’ve never been much of a fan of them. But the stage show has shown me great appreciation for the ELO songs in Xanadu and I’ve played the movie album at least once daily for several months during the course of the year. Not bad for an album that’s nearly 30 years old.
The other major roles in the show were filled by all new actors. While they were good, I missed the cast members who have moved on to other shows. While the new actors put their stamp on their respective roles, the show remained a fun and playful show that pokes fun at itself, the movie, and even pop culture and musical theater in general. I still feel this is a great show and well worth checking out if you get a chance. The tour schedule for Xanadu can be found by clicking here, be sure to check it out if it comes to a town near you.