To quote a lyric from “Porgy and Bess,” it’s summertime and the living is easy. And during the summer, I like my theatre to be light, frothy and almost unremarkable. I don’t want to think. I don’t want to analyze a plot or delve deeply into the psyche of the villain hoping to find a glimmer of humanness. It’s too hot and humid to have to think too much at the theatre.
If you are like me and like your summer theatre on the light side, Chanhassen Dinner Theatre’s new production of Xanadu is for you.
Xanadu is 122 minutes of pure fun, energy and camp. It isn’t the same 1980s movie that starred Olivia Newton-John, rather the musical pokes fun at its celluloid cousin.
The musical version does more than make fun of the movie though, it gives us characters so over the top we can’t help but love them. The music is mostly stuff from the Electric Light Orchestra’s catalog and it fits perfectly with the premise of the show.
Director Michael Brindisi guides his cast to another great offering by embracing a silly show with great talent and not trying to have the great talent over compensate for a shoddy story. It’s as if a group of highly skilled engineers got together one day to play with Legos: It’s silly to picture it, but when it happens, cool and creative things are bound to take place.
While leads Jodi Carmeli and Dieter Bierbrauer are much more than adequate in this production. The show is stolen, and the scenery is chewed up and spit out by the Greek Chorus led by the shows “villain” Melpomene, played with gusto by Kersten Rodau.
Ms. Rodau has been in a handful of Chan shows, but I hadn’t seen her in a role of this magnitude before. Her voice and comic timing are the brightest things in this show, except for the half dozen disco balls that hang over the audience. She had so much fun on opening night that I almost wanted to jump up on stage with her.
I am typically very critical of theatre productions. Especially those where the ticket price is 75 bucks or even more. But the Chanhassen never drops the ball. They keep me smiling and yearning to see more shows. While they could be putting Prozac in my Chicken Chanhassen, I tend to think the feeling of happiness I get each time I venture there is because of the things Brindisi gets out of his talented troop.
Like a double-dipped ice cream cone, Chanhassen’s Xanadu is a summer treat not to be missed.
Blair Reynolds is a freelance writer, actor and theatre critic living in St. Paul, Minn.