Tag Archives: musical

Xanadu at the Reston Community Center

This past Saturday night my husband and I saw the Reston Community Players production of Xanadu. I’ve never seen the reportedly terrible movie, and before RCP staged it I didn’t know the musical even existed, but I had been told to expect roller skates, Greek mythology, and a heaping helping of the 1980s. And wow, did it ever deliver. Clio, the leader of the nine Muses, comes to earth to inspire chalk muralist Sonny Malone to embrace his artistic dreams. He wants to create a space where all the arts come together: dance, music, painting, even athletics. He wants to build….a roller disco! (“How timeless!”) Meanwhile, Clio’s older sisters Melpomene and Calliope plot to curse her to fall in love with a human (strictly forbidden), but mostly just succeed in stealing the show.  (Especially Calliope, played by Emily Jonas, who was by far my favorite character in the entire show.) The music is all ’80s pop, including some familiar hits like Evil Woman and Strange Magic.

It took me a couple scenes to realize that the acting was supposed to be campy, melodramatic, and completely over-the-top, but once I did I really began to enjoy myself. The humor is not subtle: people sing guitar solos, dance around on roller skates, speak in hilariously terrible accents, and are all generally ridiculous. I laughed hard and often.

In addition to never taking itself at all seriously, with only a single act Xanadu doesn’t drag or overstay its welcome. This production in particular kept things moving at a steady clip, with quick dialog and upbeat songs and, more often than not, something bizarre going on in the background. Definitely recommended if you get the chance, but be prepared for some intense silliness.

Xanadu is playing at the Reston Community Center for one more weekend. Purchase tickets here.

Fairest by Gail Carson Levine

Fairest by Gail Carson Levine: Aza is not a pretty girl. She is tall and stout with a chalky complexion and black hair. However, in a kingdom where people sing as often as speak, her voice is the loveliest in the land. When a duchess stays at her parents’ inn and invites her to accompany her to the king’s wedding, Aza’s life is turned upside down. Before she knows it, the new queen has asked her to be her lady-in-waiting, and a budding friendship begins with the king’s nephew, Prince Ijori. This take on the classic tale of Snow White is charming and engrossing; I couldn’t wait to see what happens next. Aza is introspective and clever, always at odds with her appearance. I laughed in several places, and the ending found me with a big silly grin on my face. Definitely recommended to lovers of fairy tales.

A note on the audio version: There is a lot of singing in this book, and the audio version actually includes a large amount of original music. Aza’s soprano voice is lovely. Many of the songs are similar, and several are slower than I would have expected them, but it’s all pleasant to hear. My favorite songs were those sung by Frying Pan, though Ijori’s tune at the Healing Sing was hauntingly beautiful. I’m glad I listened to this book instead of just reading it, as the lyrics would have come across as far more dull as poetry. The melodies really added to the emotion of the scene.

Also posted on BookCrossing.

Sweeney Todd at Signature Theatre

Sweeney Todd
Signature Theatre
4200 Campbell Ave., Arlington, VA
February 9 – April 4, 2010
Buy Tickets

My husband and I saw this show on Thursday night, the 11th, and thoroughly enjoyed it. We’d decided to go because we’d enjoyed the movie and knew the play would be longer, fuller, and better. And indeed, it was. Staged in a black box-style setting with sparse but deliciously detailed sets, we were absorbed in the ambiance of the show even before the lights went out: smoke machines, blood dripping into buckets, randomly dimming light fixtures, and assorted noises set the mood. The play started all at once, and instantly we were pulled into the action of this crazy musical horror-comedy.

The cast, over all, was just great. The ensemble was very tight, though sometimes they were singing so quickly I couldn’t understand them. Sweeney Todd himself (Edward Gero) had some of the best facial expressions, adding humor and depth to character. This was when I was especially glad for the intimate setting, because I was able to actually see his face more often than not. Mrs. Lovett (Sherri L. Edelen) was simply a delight. I was introduced to this character via Helena Bonham Carter, whose singing voice in that role, er, leaves a bit to be desired. Edelen was able to balance the ridiculous accent, the droll inflection, and the crude mannerisms with a striking voice that was both funny and pleasant to hear.

Now, while I feel Tobias Ragg (Sam Ludwig) did a marvelous job and has a beautiful voice, he was simply too old to play the character. Toby is supposed to be, at the very most, a teenager, but the fellow playing him was clearly well into his 20s. This is no fault of the actor’s, to be sure, but it did distract from the realism a little bit. The other youngish male lead, Anthony (Gregory Maheu), looked distractingly like Jude Law. This says nothing about his performance, which was fine, but it’s all I really have to say about him.

The villains were fun: I actually preferred Chris Van Cleave’s Judge Turpin over Alan Rickman’s (and I love me some Rickman, so that’s saying something), and Beadle (Chris Sizemore) repeatedly cracked me up with his falsetto shenanigans. Saving the best for last, Johanna (Erin Driscoll) was absolutely lovely. Many of the notes she had to sing were incredibly high, but she nailed every one solidly and beautifully.

All in all, a wonderful show. Go see it if you can!

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