Monday, 2 November 2015

Review: Xanadu at the Southwark Playhouse

Southwark Playhouse
Reviewed on Thursday 29th October 2015

Bold, bizarre and camper than Christmas, Xanadu is the craziest musical EVER. 

Carly Anderson stars as Kira, a magical Greek muse sent from the heavens of Mount Olympus to inspire struggling artist Sonny (Samuel Edwards) in California. Based on the 1980s cult movie which starred Olivia Newton John and Gene Kelly, the roller skating musical premiered on Broadway in 2007 where it broke box office records and was a huge success.

Jeff Lynne and John Farrar's score is frighteningly catchy whilst Douglas Carter Beane's script has no boundaries and features some ridiculously funny moments. Xanadu tells a chaotic story of forbidden love - it takes a while to adjust to the craziness; at first it's overwhelming, but I loved every second and left the Southwark Playhouse absolutely buzzing.

Marking the first time Xanadu has ever been staged in the UK, Paul Warwick Griffin's production works well in the intimacy of the Southwark Playhouse. It didn't feel like I was watching a small show with a cast of nine because the musical numbers are so big (Nathan M. Wright's choreography is terrific) and the audience's reaction was huge. Morgan Large's design is spot on, the costumes and wigs really are something else.

Carly Anderson is a revelation as Kira. She is everything you could possibly want from a leading lady, fully embracing the humour. Anderson makes some spectacular entrances and exits as she glides around the stage on her roller skates - her portrayal becomes more and more ridiculous as the evening progresses.

Having proved himself a charming leading man as Sam in Ghost and Fiyero in Wicked, Samuel Edwards shows diversity as Sonny. Wearing hot pants, roller skates, a headband and vest, Edwards makes quite an impression. He has truly mastered the Urinetown-style satirical humour (the telephone box scene is utter genius) with the smallest of looks and expressions receiving huge responses from the audience. Vocally Edwards shone during the act one finale and showcased tremendous charisma during musical numbers – he is certainly one to watch over the coming years.

I have no words to describe Alison Jiear and Lizzy Connolly as Melpomene and Calliope. Both are totally mad - I could not take my eyes off of them! Jiear belts out some seriously sassy diva vocals whilst Connolly gives the performance of the night – she is comical perfection, I never wanted her to leave the stage.

Nigel Barber is superb as both Danny and Zeus whilst Micha Richardson, Joel Burman, Nicholas Duncan and Emily McGougan redefine the meaning of camp. The entire cast take to the stage with endless energy and drive.

Xanadu provides the best kind of escapism - it is in your face and absolutely bonkers. I don't think I have ever had so much silly, fluffy fun at the theatre! I still have no idea what I witnessed, Xanadu is insane.

Reviewed by Andrew Tomlins (Editor)

Xanadu runs at the Southwark Playhouse until Saturday 21st November 2015.
Please visit for further information and tickets.

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