What saved Broadway's "Xanadu" from the same fate as Hollywood's is that the stage musical was in on the joke the movie had become.
In its Long Island premiere at CM Performing Arts Center, director-choreographer Patrick Grossman gets the joke. But his cast spins its wheels, ironically, by not spinning them enough.
"Xanadu," the 1980 roller-disco flick, came on the heels of "Grease," the musical that won't go away in persistent stage reincarnations. Both films starred Olivia Newton-John. But "Xanadu" was such a stinker that Newton-John retreated to her native Australia, whereupon Aussie actresses remained Down Under till Nicole Kidman caught a director's (and Tom Cruise's) eye.
We can bless the "Xanadu" film-flop for killing the aborning "Grease" factory that would've resulted, no doubt, in "Stayin' Alive," a Bee Gees' vampire musical. (Wait. Forget you read that. We could sell it!)
But what we can't sell, all you fans of Greek-chorus musical spoofs on roller skates, is a "Xanadu" with too few wheels -- the kind you strap on your feet. While Lisa Ganz engages us as a Greek muse (Clio) posing as a California girl (Kira), she's hemmed in by a cast that won't roll along with her. What this show needs is a skating coach.
Allen Davidson as the dim-witted Venice Beach muralist Sonny, contemplating suicide over his aesthetic impotence, has the chops to match Clio/Kira on their purposely vapid duet "Suddenly." But he skates like a kid on training wheels. Ganz, lovely in her pink lace and leg warmers (costumes by Ronnie Green), rolls around aimlessly. No one to play with. As a result, the show's best sight gag is blown. Worse, Ganz gives up on it too soon. It would be a hoot to see her limping about, one skate on, one in Sonny's hand.
John Steele Jr., doubling as Zeus and the developer of a building Sonny wants to turn into a roller disco, gives each a fatherly touch. Marielle Greguski and especially Kristen Digillo as sister-muses steal the show with an over-the-top "Evil Woman" (songs by Electric Light Orchestra's Jeff Lynne and John Farrar).
Michael Santangelo's onstage band injects some spontaneity as they get the onstage audience (disco ballroom set by Grossman and Jennifer Hocker) rocking in their seats.
If only these mortals could skate!
WHAT "Xanadu," book by Douglas Carter Beane
INFO $16-$22 (onstage seating available), for one full-price ticket get a second for 80 cents Wednesday night; cmpac.com, 631-218-2810