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'80s disco meets Ancient Greece

BY DEVYN YOUNG | OCTOBER 09, 2014 5:00 AM

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In 1980, a new musical premièred in movie theaters throughout the country. The film was called Xanadu and starred Olivia Newton John and Michael Beck. Despite a successful soundtrack and a later cult following, the film got negative reviews and barely scraped up a profit at box offices.

The colorful comedy got a second life in 2007, however, with the première of the Broadway musical Xanadu in New York City. The new incarnation was a hit and went on to run for 500 shows, receive two Tony Award nominations, and tour the country.

City Circle Acting Company will present its interpretation of Xanadu Friday through Oct. 19 at the Coralville Center for the Performing Arts, 1301 Fifth St. Xanadu tells the story of a Greek goodness, Kira, who is sent from Mount Olympus to 1980 Venice Beach, California, in order to help struggling artist Sonny Malone. It is her goal to help him create a roller disco.

“I think the music is fun and fresh, the story is engaging, and it’s a musical comedy that is truly funny,” director Chris Okiishi said. He has directed more than 15 shows at City Circle.

“It’s a dream cast,” Okiishi said. “They’re hardworking people. Comedy isn’t easy, and they make it look easy.”

University of Iowa students Victoria Vaughn and Skyler Matthias star as Kira/Clio and struggling artist Sonny Malone. Both have been acting since middle school and have performed with City Circle before.

“It’s a really good cast,” Vaughn said. “It’s a wide range of people … so it’s definitely been a great learning experience just meeting so many people.”

Matthias agreed.

“I always enjoy having a small cast,” he said.

The musical score features arrangements of ’80s hits from the Xanadu film soundtrack, including “Magic” and “Have You Never Been Mellow,” by John Farrar and Electric Light Orchestra's “I’m Alive” and “Strange Magic.”

Xanadu also contains a gimmick not many stage musicals have to master: roller skates. Members of the cast said this is the hardest element of the show.

“It has been an interesting challenge,” Okiishi said.

Ben Alley, who plays Terpsichore, said the hardest part of the performance is movement style and acting choices.

“My character expresses himself almost entirely through movement,” he said. “Anytime I say something, there is almost always a dance involved.”

Although most of the cast are adults, there are some teenagers ― the members of the Greek chorus in the show ― involved in the production, all of whom say working with this cast has been a great experience.

“Everyone is really passionate about what they do, and you can tell they love theater,” Vaughn said. “I think the great thing about this cast is we can all help each other.”


Theater
What: Xanadu
Where: Coralville Center for the Performing Arts
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday-Oct. 19
Price: $17-$27


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