Drury Lane Theatre: “Xanadu”

One out of every 236 people living in 1980 still alive today yearns for a theatrical homage to the song and fashion stylings of that time, according to a study by the Department of Sociology at Nevada’s Cadwallader University.

That doesn’t necessarily bode well for Drury Lane Theatre’s staging of “Xanadu.”

Because this musical is written for people in the audience—like the one in Section B, Row 2, Seat 11 on opening night— who unabashedly sing (and dance) along to its Electric Light Orchestra and Olivia Newton-John songbook.

But if the question on everyone’s mind when considering “Xanadu” is “Really? Broadway?,” the follow-up is even more important: How did it receive general acclaim, last 500 performances and rake in a Tony nomination for best musical? (The show’s history and synopsis can be found here.)

Indeed, the 2007 Broadway show is based on the 1980 film, pulled together to take advantage of Newton-John’s cult status following her meteoric rise to fame after 1978’s blockbuster film, “Grease.”

“Xanadu” the movie barely broke even financially and gave rise to Hollywood’s “Razzies,” awarded annually to the industry’s greatest cinematic affronts. So the answer to “Really? Broadway?” is “Yeah, we don’t know either.”

However, brilliant director and choreographer Rachel Rockwell’s local production offers a plausible response. She makes the most of the show’s pep and spunk, to say nothing of the Spandex and roller skates. And she throws in enough sarcasm to ensure no one takes the silly storyline too seriously.

Add to that the spot-on performances and powerhouse vocals of Chris Critelli, Gina Milo, Gene Weygandt, Christine Sherrill and Tammy Mader in the principal roles, and patrons receive the performance level expected of a top regional company like Drury Lane.

And when Milo’s solo in “Have You Never Been Mellow” resonates a near perfect replica of Newton-John circa mid-1970s, well…let’s just let this reunion begin, and follow it up with a chorus of “Let’s Get Physical,” please.

One element saving “Xanadu” is that this musical openly mocks itself with lines like, “This is like children’s theatre for 40-year-old gay people.” And it lampoons musical-theater’s universal message of love, passion and the arts as keys to happiness.

Sometimes one needs to glimpse into a fun house mirror or at a honest caricature to more fully appreciate the reality they reflect. And looking around the room as the crowd filed out on opening night, there wasn’t a single person without a smile on his or her face.

Even though they were each at least a little bit embarrassed to be wearing it.

“Xanadu” runs through October 28 at the Drury Lane Theatre, 100 Drury Lane, Oakbrook Terrace, less than a 1-hour drive from all North Shore suburbs. Tickets range from $35 to $46 with some student and senior discounts. Dinner packages are also available Parking is complimentary. Information and tickets are available online at www.drurylaneoakbrook.com or by phone (630) 530-0111.