Xanadu, First New Musical of the Season, Opens on Broadway

News   Xanadu, First New Musical of the Season, Opens on Broadway Xanadu, the new musical based on the 1980 Universal Pictures film of the same name, officially opens at the Helen Hayes Theatre July 10.

Kerry Butler and Cheyenne Jackson in Xanadu.
Kerry Butler and Cheyenne Jackson in Xanadu. Photo by Peter Lueders/Paul Kolnik Studio

It's been a long road to opening night for the production, the first new musical to open on Broadway during the 2007-2008 season.

Xanadu began previews May 23, co-starring Kerry Butler as Kira and James Carpinello as Sonny, the roles originated on screen by, respectively, Olivia Newton-John and Michael Beck. On June 12 Carpinello injured his foot while roller skating during a rehearsal; two days later, it was announced that Cheyenne Jackson — who starred in the Elvis Presley-inspired musical All Shook Up — would temporarily replace Carpinello, who plans to return to the show at some point. It is Jackson, however, who is opening the show.

Butler and Jackson are joined onstage by Tony Roberts as Danny Maguire/Zeus, Curtis Holbrook as Thalia, Anika Larsen as Euterpe, Kenita Miller as Erato, Mary Testa as Melpomene/Medusa, Jackie Hoffman as Calliope/Aphrodite, André Ward as Terpsicore and Marty Thomas as a Featured Skater. (Actress Miller sustained a minor ankle injury during previews, but she is now back in the production — currently singing back-up vocals until she recovers fully; her role is temporarily being played by Patti Murin.)

Directed by Christopher Ashley, Xanadu features choreography by Dan Knechtges and musical direction and arrangements by Eric Stern. The design team includes David Gallo (scenic design), Howell Binkley (lighting design), David Zinn (costume design), T. Richard Fitzgerald and Carl Casella (sound design), Zachary Borovay (projections design) and Charles LePoint (wig and hair design). John Miller is music coordinator.

Xanadu boasts a book by Little Dog Laughed playwright Douglas Carter Beane — a 2007 Tony Award nominee — and utilizes songs from John Farrar and Jeff Lynne's film soundtrack. The musical, according to press notes, "tells the story of one of the nine muses of ancient Greece who comes to earth to inspire the greatest of artistic achievements – a roller disco. Along the way she falls in love, bumps into an old acquaintance and for the first time, feels the desire to create herself." At an open press rehearsal, leading lady Kerry Butler told Playbill.com, "[The musical is] very different from the film. [Beane] took the best moments from the movie and added in a whole new plot, really. It's much more Greek. We're really goddesses. We speak in a kind of Shakespearean language," with contemporary phraseology thrown in for anachronism. Butler said, "I'll say things like, 'Huzzah to you, my sisters! There's an artist who needs our inspiration!' And when they respond to me, I reply, 'Word!'" Of Beane, she said, "He knows that people love the movie, so he added in a lot of references to the movie. People who know the movie will say, 'Oh my God, they're doing that little thing they did in the movie!'"

Xanadu, which is performed without an intermission, features the songs "I'm Alive," "Magic," "Evil Woman," "Suddenly," "Whenever You're Away From Me," "Dancin'," "Strange Music," "All Over the World," "Don't Walk Away," "Fool," "The Fall," "Suspended in Time," "Have You Never Been Mellow?" and "Xanadu."

The 1980 film "Xanadu" was written by Richard Christian Danus and Marc Reid Rubel and was directed by Robert Greenwald. Although the disco-era film flopped spectacularly, its soundtrack recording went double-platinum.

The performance schedule is Tuesday-Saturday at 8 PM, Saturday at 2 PM and Sunday at 3 PM.

The Helen Hayes Theatre is located in Manhattan at 240 West 44th Street.

The <i>Xanadu</i> ensemble.
The Xanadu ensemble. Photo by Paul Kolnik