The roller-skating Greek muses of Xanadu.
I'm not so sure about that muse second
from the left.
I happened to catch about five whole minutes of the Tony Awards broadcast
the other night. I was actually passing through channels, and when I got
to that channel and they happened to have a musical number going on I
stopped to watch it. It turned out to be a number from the musical Xanadu.
It seemed to me, watching it, that a fifteen year old could have come up
with a better libretto. And that's not saying anything against fifteen year
olds, cause I'm sure there are some really talented fifteen years olds
that really could do better.
Xanadu? I wasn't familiar with it in the slightest. So I decided the next
day to do a little research. Evidently, the current Broadway incarnation
stems from a movie musical from 1980 starring Olivia Newton John and Gene
Kelly. Which is kind of a strange romantic pairing when you consider that
at the time Olivia was 32 years old and Gene was 68. Anyway, the thing did
look like it had some decent music to it, written by Jeff Lynne of the
Electric Light Orchestra and John Farrar, one of Olivia's producers and
sometime writer. So as far as the music goes, I don't have any problem.
It's pretty much typical pop-disco of the era. And I listen to my ABBA
as much as anybody. But evidently the movie was a flop. And, from what
I can gather, it is generally agreed that it totally sucks.
But evidently the new Broadway production was nominated for three
Tony's — Best Actress, Best Book, and Best Choreography. As far as Best
Book, I wasn't exactly sure what they meant — unless they intended to
give a posthumous Tony to Samuel Taylor Coleridge. I could only guess
they meant the libretto, which for the Broadway version was by Douglas
Carter Beane, who wrote the script for To Wong Fu, Thanks for Everything,
Julie Newmar. For the 1980 movie, the writers are listed as being
Richard Christian Danus and Marc Reid Rubel, neither of whom had much
of a track record when they did the thing, unless you consider a few
episodes of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air as being a track record. It's
hard to believe that the librettos are similar. As for the movie, here's
an example of the dialog you'd find in that one:
Sonny: I want to know more about you.
Kira: You already know enough about me. Any more and you're
going to get a headache.
Sonny: Are you living with someone?
Kira: Yes. I told you I live with my sisters.
Sonny: I know. In an apartment on the second floor. All right,
then. What's your last name?
Kira: Same as my mother's and father's.
Sonny: And what's that?
Kira: Which one, my mother's or my father's?
Kira: The same as mine!
Sonny: I get it. No questions.
Kira: No questions, no lies.
Sonny: No questions, no truth, either.
That just sounds like a really bad broadcast of Larry King Live in which
he's interviewing some dumb-ass celebrity. Although it is good to know
that the libretto embraces the empirical method — no questions, no truth
— which is at least something positive.
In any case, by all accounts the Broadway version is actually funny.
Which might not have been the case with the movie, which was made back
in the days when we took our roller-disco and our Greek muses a lot more
The only way to find out all this stuff for sure would be to actually
see the musical. Which even here in the "outback" of Spokane — and
assuming it even comes here on tour — is still pretty spendy. As for
the movie, it doesn't even seem worth buying it.
I think I'll just spend my theater money on Cosi Fan Tutte. I managed
to find the full Barenboim/Bartoli version, and that's where my little
bit of extra money next month is going. Yes, I'm finally breaking down
and buying the thing.
You really have to wonder if Mozart, if he could hop in a time machine
to our present day, and looking at what sells the tickets and makes the
money these days in terms of musical theater, would just be appalled at
what he found. On the other hand, Mozart had his own stuff to worry
about — like the overblown tripe of Salieri and others. So maybe he'd
just shrug his shoulders and throw up his hands and say something like
"Well, that's the music biz for ya. Crazy, yeah?"