A survivalist review from opening night, October 11th, 2001
by Don Fields from The Xanadu Preservation Society
It's becoming an strange time to live in when various parts of your past creeps up from behind and
pinches you out of your current stupor. One of these clippings of MY past is, of course, Xanadu. Well,
last week saw the west coast premiere of 'XANADU LIVE!' and boy, am my cheeks are red.
'XANADU LIVE! is adapted and directed by ANNIE DORSEN and it was first presented at the
Williamstown Theater Festival last year. It was up to AMY PIETZ and KENNETH ALAN WILLIAMS to liven
things up here in L. A. by bringing all to it's backyard, Culver City. CA at the Gascon Center Theater.
The theater was just part of the GASCON CENTER, which was a large old bread factory that houses
various art galleries, studios, a fencing school and the popular jazz club, The Jazz Bakery. The theater
was inside, near the back of the building and it seated only 99 people...but you wouldn't known all this
once the production started.
What the company and the muses lacked in space and budget, they surpassed these limitations of
reality with spirit, fun and dedication. Each of the actors behind the main characters (Danny, Sonny &
Kira) gave great interpretations of these principle rolls; Mr. Williams is a 'deeper' Danny, Dustin James
was up to the challenge (though he was cute, some might miss the rugged looks of Michael Beck) and
Cheryl Lynn Bowers as Kira is......well, what can I say? She found just the right balance of elegance,
beauty and camp. And she's one! hot! babe! The original Kira has serious competition here!!
Minor characters were good but, for me, the stand out was Paul Schackman's stab at Simpson! Paul
manages to grasp the 'subtilties' of this character as well as the comical bombastic temper. This time,
though, Paul had additional weaponry...his Simpson had glasses and he used them to great effect.
Almost every line he had, he would dramatically punctuate by taking them off and on. On the spot and
funny! It also help that he looked more like Xanadu producer Joel Silver, who's temper are stuff of
legend [as one can see in 'Who Framed Roger Rabbit?' as Roger's angry director].
Annie Dorson work here was great. Every possible nuances, campy moment and plot loop hole from the
original film was displayed to humorous effect with minimal "re-touching" (a substitute line with the
"annoyance" of running somebody over, a 'The Warriors' reference and Danny throwing that big band l.
p. INTO the record player were a riot!). Plus using the muses as stage hands was brilliant! She also did
some effective editing as there were some scenes from the movie one CAN'T duplicate in the physical
stage...well, outside of Disney anyway. Some might be sadden to hear that she took out 'Don't Walk
Away' scene, but she, too, made up for it with some inventive ways to, for example, handle Sonny's
skating into the mural. She was also able to carry off the 'Big Final', though that snare drum was getting
on my nerves (Could somebody please send them a copy of that b-side rarity, 'Drum Dreams'?).
With all the changes from the screen to the stage, the basic utopian theme and campy flavor remained
respectfully intact. You can easily even look over the fact that the cast was lip-syncing the songs. All
the anal retentive second-guessing doesn't matter. Celebrating this film, it's brief era and the fun was in
order and it was to be had, whether you liked it or not.
Kudos to everyone involved and thanks to Annie and Danny....excuse me, Kenneth for transplanting
this to the home of Xanadu...well, near it's home, at least.
Now if you excuse me, I just got the complete 'Josie & The Pussycats' from Rhino Records. If this keeps
up, I won't be able to sit down all month.