One can see how it might have been a good idea: Adapt the notoriously bad Olivia Newton-John 1980 movie musical, “Xanadu,” for the stage. Embrace the movie’s badness by doing much of the show on roller skates, and you could have a high-camp frolic.
But Lyric’s tepid production, directed by Alan Muraoka, is less than the sum of its parts. The energy generated by the cast doesn’t carry into the audience. Maybe the Plaza Theatre’s stage is too small for the skaters — and the show — to reach full speed, and the reviewed performance barely garnered the usual standing ovation. Chris Castleberry’s choreography ranges from swing and tap to disco and standard, musical-theater hoofing it.
In writing it, Douglas Carter Beane (“The Little Dog Laughed”) has kept more or less faithful to the film, throwing out the superfluous and adding a subplot and a scene here and there. Jeff Lynne and John Farrar composed the pop-rock songs.
Set in Venice, Calif., and on Mount Olympus, “Xanadu” tells the tale of Sonny Malone (Adam Levinskas, the dude can yodel), who’s somewhat of a dolt and underachieving artist. Clio (Lexi Windsor, giving it her best shot), the Greek Muse, takes an interest in him and assumes the mortal guise of the Australian Kira to help him achieve his dream, which turns out to be opening a roller disco.
Sonny finds a suitable space, but it’s owned by real-estate magnate Danny Maguire (Stephen Hilton). The Muses Melpomene (Sheran Keyton) and Calliope (the delightfully comic Renee Anderson) think that Zeus has unjustly favored Clio, and scheme to wreck Sonny’s and Kira’s plans.
The script has its comic moments, both high and lowbrow. Erato, the Muse of lyric and love poetry, has to whisper the answer in Sonny’s ear when he asks what rhymes with “Nantucket.” The dialogue includes many ’80s cultural references and slang. When’s the last time you heard someone called a “jive turkey”?
However confined the production is, Jeffrey Meek’s costumes are utterly unrestrained. (What are those dreadlocked creatures in the “Evil Woman” number?) Art Whaley’s lighting looks notably sharp; Chris Domanski’s set is handsome, if unspectacular.
The production has a few amusing sight gags. Inexplicably, three of the Muses are male. The music is nostalgic. “Strange Magic” evokes memories, but the title song in the last scene seems oddly anticlimactic.
Sonny says his roller disco will include music, art and theater. Danny replies, “Nothing turns a crap neighborhood around like the arts.”
That line rings especially true in Lyric’s snazzy Plaza Theatre.