Finally came opening night and, to say the least, it was a grand opening worthy
of a Broadway production. Not only did local and Broadway celebrities and the
crew and crew turn out to parade in front of the press and cameras (some of
which were on skates), but two more notable figureheads were added to the
excitement that Xanadu Live sadly didn’t have: Olivia Newton-John and John
Farrar in the flesh for support.
Olivia said later that night: “I haven’t watched it in years, so for me it was like
memories and just terribly funny, like seeing a part of myself that was long ago.”
As for the slight ribbing the show gave the movie…and to her original
performance? “You have to have a sense of humor about yourself, otherwise
what is life about?” Farrar was so impressed with the show that he bought
tickets for the next day’s performance before the night was over.
Once the dust settled from this sold-out opening night performance, the press was all over it…for the good. New York Times critic
Charles Isherwood opened his review with, “Can a musical be simultaneously indefensible and irresistible? Why yes it can. Witness
Xanadu…” While he balances the show’s “ironic” stance, he gives praise to Beane’s script and more to Kerry Butler’s performance.
He notes that the script “trumps such hectoring queries by acknowledging the insanity of the enterprise himself” and further
describes “with such sharp good humor and magnetic high spirits that you don’t have much time to weep for the cultural blight that
too much of Broadway has become. And in fact, there’s enough first-rate stage talent rolling around in Xanadu to power a season of
wholly new, old-school, non-jukebox musicals, if someone would get around to writing a few good ones.”
As for Butler’s performance: “[she] is simply heaven on eight little polyurethane wheels. Or heaven in leg warmers.” Later he adds,
“Ms. Butler is a rare Broadway ingénue who is as funny as she is pretty and she sings gloriously, too, both in her tangy Broadway belt
and in a devastatingly funny impersonation of Ms. Newton-John’s sweetly sighing soprano.”
Variety critic David Rooney took a similar more thorough route. “Beane has taken the unpromising clay of [Danus/Rubel’s]
screenplay and molded it not only into a engaging goofy spoof of the film itself but also a witty takedown of the Broadway creative
culture. With a complicitous wink at the audience that’s never overplayed, the creative’s and cast at every turn cheekily point up the
irony of charging Rialto prices for recycled trash.”
Other newspapers from around the country like the Hollywood Reporter and the Washington Post gave similar reviews which gave
the show a strong boost as, according to Playbill, it broke house records. On the day after the official première, the show took in
$150,000 on that day! Not a record breaking sum in much larger NYC theatres, but it was for the 579 seat Hayes theatre.
Another boast for the show was the fans and their use of the internet!
Through sites like YouTube and MySpace, postings and videos
circulated wildly and positivity, though this wasn’t nothing new within
Xanadu’s faithful circles as such appreciation and devotion followed
the movie into another medium with a bunch of new blood mixed in.
NY Times and CBS had articles that chronicled fans driving and flying
from far away places like California and seeing the show up to 10
times, though this is not to count out the lucky locals either. “It’s
infectious” said a NYC stock broker, “I sat there with a smile on my
face from beginning to end.” One couple from Brooklyn had seen the
One of the more active fans goes by the name of WonderRobbie (aka
Robbie Tursi). Armed with his accounts from the above mentioned
sites, he had posted videos of various XoB events he had attended;
celebrities arriving for the opening, Broadway Cares street fare that
took place in front of the Helen Hayes Theatre and the occasional
His first XoB video was so popular through internet circulation and
comments that he received a thank you note from the cast. “The cast is
probably the warmest and nicest cast that I ever met on Broadway.
That’s the main reason why I think a lot of people have gone back.”
|ABOVE: Tony Roberts in his second XoB
Even the producers were taking advantage of internet
videos, mainly through YouTube, as they were posting video’
s of commercials, behind the scenes, mini-documentaries
and brief show excerpts. They also put a large web site
crammed with reviews, interactive pages, a ‘Kira’s Skate
Shop’ where fans can purchase XoB souvenirs and, for a
time, a guestbook where fans and crew can post their
For the rest of the show’s run, it was a blur of publicity and
activity; appearances on TV shows like The View and Live
With Regis & Kelly and a spot on the Macy’s Thanksgiving
Parade. Serendipity 3, NYC’s most famous and expensive
ice cream parlor, named a dish for the show, Strange Magic
Sundae. It was even recorded for posterity for the Lincoln
Center Archives. Another round of posterity preservation was
the recording and the release of the soundtrack from the
show on the PS Classics label. The CD’s booklet is loaded
with photos and Beane’s elaborate notes explaining his
side of the story….but they wasn’t finished just yet.
Thanks to the show’s continuing success, the producers
published, not a program, but a 84-page, full color, 12 x 12
book entitled ‘XANADU THE BOOK! Seriously’. Similar to
this very site detailing the movie, it was pretty much
everything you wanted to know about this stage
production…and I do mean everything: the neck-breaking
amounts of pictures, outtakes and interviews with the crew,
producers and, as an added bonus, from the film, John
Farrar, Xanadu screenwriters Marc Rubel and Richard
Danus and, representing ELO side of things, the band’s
archivist Rob Craiger.
There were some movie tidbits included in the Farrar and
Danus pieces, but the most telling was with Rubel and his
reaction with the Broadway show. After briefly describing the
frustrations with and surviving the after-effects from the
movie, Rubel ended the upbeat interview with a happy
ending: “To have it be this [XoB] success feels great. Finally.
It is redemption. Very rare. You just don’t get that with this
The show created a ripple effect that went far beyond it’s Broadway borders. All
avenues of pop culture, be it’s blogs and newspapers and their critics, were trying
to size up this latest incarnation of the Xanadu. While many of them were positive,
one of the more interesting ones came from Robert P. Pela for the Phoenix New
Times. After discussing his disbelief over this incarnation for many paragraphs, he
finally throws up his hands and surrenders: “….I don’t want to see this show, but
somehow I think I better. I’m afraid that if I don’t see Xanadu, Xanadu will track me
down and force me to watch it.” It’s as if Kira is quoting Bill Hicks from over his
With all the ripple and noise the show was creating, there was one that even the
fans weren’t excepting. Universal Home Entertainment had announced a two-disc
‘Magical Musical Edition’ re-issue of Xanadu for release on June 2008 containing
a CD of the soundtrack and a DVD with bonus features that included a photo
gallery, trailer, a 5.1 surround sound audio track and, what caught a lot of fan’s
attention, a documentary, ‘Going Back To Xanadu’.
The documentary was 27 minutes long and it featured many interviews with director Robert Greenwald, producer Lawrence Gordon,
the Xanadu screenwriters, Bobbie Mannix, Kenny Ortega, Gene Kelly’s widow Patricia Kelly, Don Bluth, Jerry Trent, muses Sandahl
Bergman and Marylyn Tokuda, two members of the The Tubes, some of the Xanadu dancers and fans Kenny Anderson and Heather
Hoben. Unfortunately, Olivia couldn’t participate due to schedule conflicts while Joel Silver and Beck just plain turned them down.
Between the tales of the raise and fall and raise of the film, the doc largely focused on the sub-culture of the dancers that were hired
for the project and their involvement in some of the numbers (#14), especially the complex ‘Dancin’ where they were split in two and
rehearsed separately until the day of shooting while The Tubes were surviving in those bright orange jump suits. BTW, don’t even talk
to The Tubes about performing Dancin’ ever again as, even after 30 years, they still won’t play the song live on stage.
Many interesting highlights included Patricia Kelly going into detail about many of the shooting locations and expressing more of
Gene’s frustrations, Greenwald describing a unique vision of Los Angeles they were looking for and how the movie was doing in ‘St.
Louis’, the surviving muses going on about the progressive racial mix of the muses, Kenny Ortega’s stories about working with Kelly
and the film rushed production schedule, Don Bluth’s frantic animated involvement and some of the dancer’s stores.
According to one of the interviewees, the producers behind this DVD package and the doc found a large amount of rare and archival
Xanadu material (commercials, promo footage, deleted scenes, etc.,) during their research but expressed frustration with Universal
and the tight clearance budget they had to work with. (#15) A good hint of this can seen during the doc as none of the Xanadu music
wasn’t used and was replaced with generic BGM. Hell, it didn’t even have a opening title card! Plus, it was reported that they didn’t
even used the footage they shot of XoB, though there was a XoB coupon enclosed in each copy.
and one of the
cast enjoying it.
cover of the
cover of the