Sick of the never-ending winter? Find your leg warmers, grab your roller skates, and travel back in time with the Reston Players to sunny California in the 1980s for their upcoming production of the irreverent frothy musical Xanadu.
Director Joshua Redford said Xanadu is sure to be a crowd pleaser. “How do you follow up an epic and engrossing crowd pleaser like Les Misérables?” Redford asked. “You do it with roller skating, leg warmers, disco balls, ELO, and Olivia Newton -John. The only thing this show is missing is a dog and a kid. Believe me, if I had my bulldog, Francis, from Legally Blonde, I’m sure I could’ve found a way to work him in.”
Xanadu is a light-hearted tongue-in-cheek musical adventure based on the 1980 cult classic Olivia Newton-John/Gene Kelly film and featuring an award winning book by Douglas Carter Beane. It tells the story of Kira, a magical and beautiful Greek muse who descends from the heavens to inspire struggling artist Sonny to achieve the greatest artistic creation of all time – the first ROLLER DISCO! Chaos abounds as Kira defies the laws of Zeus and falls in love with Sonny while struggling to outwit her jealous sister muses.
The score retains the hits from the film and also includes new arrangements by Eric Stern of “I’m Alive,” “Magic,” “Suddenly,” and “Dancin’,” as well as interpolating two classic Electric Light Orchestra songs, “Strange Magic” and “Evil Woman,” plus John Farrar’s “Have You Never Been Mellow.
“Whenever directing a comedy a director needs to decide how far is too far,” Redford said. “It is very easy to play for cheap laughs, but in doing so I believe you lose the sincerity and the heart of the story. At the core, Xanadu is a love story. It’s about a love for your art and what happens when you give up your love, and what happens when you pursue your love, no matter how daunting the task.”
Redford said one challenge in bringing Xanadu to the stage was figuring out how to bring the muses to life from the chalk mural on the wall. “Broadway has the advantage of elevators on the stage, and trap doors to achieve the desired effect, so we had to find a creative means for bringing the chalk drawings to life,” Redfor said. “Fortunately, I have a great team of designers including Skip Gresko and Jon Roberts, and together we devised an effective scheme that I think audiences will enjoy.”
Another challenge in staging Xanadu was getting the actors to sing and dance on roller skates, Redford said. “Although, Kira is on roller skates for most of the show, the other characters do not wear roller skates until the end when the dream of the roller disco has been realized. None of our actors are trained roller skaters so they had to learn how to move efficiently, and dance on roller skates. It is a daunting task, but everyone was up to the challenge and I think the audience will be impressed.”
Emily Jonas, who plays Calliope, the Muse of Epics, agreed with Redford that the cast rose to the skating challenge. “I was surprised by how well every cast member put on their skates and took on the challenge of four wheels with ease,” she said. “I think the audience will be surprised to see the 80s come alive through our energy and the fun we have performing this show.”
Jonas, from Alexandria, VA, was recently seen as Susan Hershey in The Full Monty and Logainne SchwartzandGrubenierre in The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, both with The Little Theatre of Alexandria. Jonas said she has always wanted to perform in Xanadu. “It is a fun and quirky production where character acting is a must,” Jonas said. “I love that Calliope has a unique perspective as a muse. She is the muse of Epics, and has an epic journey herself. Goofy character roles are my favorite parts to play. I am excited to help bring this show alive with Reston Players.”
Katie Cheek Ferguson, who plays Melpomene, the Muse of Singing/Tragedy, is making her debut with Reston Players. A native of Charlotte, NC, Ferguson currently teaches first grade at Hutchison Elementary. Past roles include Ado Annie in Oklahoma!, Carbuckitty in Cats, Cassie in A Chorus Line, and Cheryl in Evil Dead! The Musical.
Ferguson said she wasn’t prepared for how silly the story of Xanadu is or just how quirky the characters are. “When we started rehearsals and began working through the script I was surprised by just how funny the story is, and the direction that the rest of the cast was taking their characters,” she said. “They are hilarious! After I began working with them I thought, ‘Man, I better step up my game!’”
Ferguson said she enjoys playing the delightfully evil Melpomene. “She has a lot of really nice moments where she gets to be wicked but does it in a fun way,” Ferguson said. “I’m not a vindictive person and personally don’t care for getting revenge on others. Melpomene is the opposite of me. She has a lot of good comedic moments which have been fun to develop and play with. There is a lot more depth to her than the audience might realize.”
Sam Nystrom, a Reston Players veteran from Washington, D.C., plays Terpsicore, the Muse of Dance. “I love the music from this show and I enjoyed seeing the original cast on Broadway,” Nystrom said. “It’s an hysterical script and the pop music is super catchy. The chance to roller skate onstage was also a draw for me.”
Nystrom said he enjoys the freedom of being a muse who comes out of a chalk drawing for the first time. “As the Muse of Dance, I try to work as many different ways of moving into my character as much as I can,” he said. “Terpsicore is always dancing. It’s a fun role to play because you can be ridiculous and over the top and still push it farther.”
Alexa Yarboro of Herndon, VA, plays Euterpe, the Muse of Music. “My knowledge of Xanadu before being cast was it was that roller skating show,” she said. “It’s fresh and exciting to do a show that I don’t already know and not having the cast recording cemented in my mind.
Redford said he hopes audiences leave the theater humming the iconic songs of Olivia Newton-John, fondly remembering the cult movie, and laughing at the absurdity of some of the events that transpired on the stage. “Whether you are a fan of the movie or not, you are sure to leave Xanadu with a smile on your face and warmth in your heart,” he said. “Xanadu is the perfect remedy for this long, cold winter.”
Xanadu is directed by Joshua Redford and music directed by Matt Jeffrey. It is produced by Daryl Hoffman and Carol Watson. Performances begin March 7th. Xanadu will play at CenterStage March 7th, 8th 14th, 15th, 21st, 22nd, 28th, and 29th at 8:00 p.m., with 2:00 p.m. matinees on March 16th and 23rd.
The cast of Xanadu includes Evie Korovesis (Kira), Russell Silber (Sonny Malone), Katie Rebecca Cheek (Melpomene), Emily Jonas (Calliope), Richard Durkin (Danny Maguire/Zeus), Alexa Yarboro (Euterpe), Megan Hubbell (Erato), Sam Nystrom (Terpsicore), and Sean Cator (Thalia).
All Reston Players mainstage productions are performed at CenterStage at the Reston Community Center, 2310 Colts Neck Road, Reston, Va. CenterStage is handicap accessible and offers listening devices for the hearing impaired.
It’s Magic! Meet the Cast of Reston Community Players’ ‘Xanadu’ Part 1: Richard Durkin, Evie Korovesis, and Russell Silber by Diane Jackson Schnoor.