Xanadu @ MET Theatre

1980 sucked.

It was a lousy year that began an even lousier decade.

The Iranian hostage crisis was just in its second month, the US boycotted the Moscow Summer Olympics, Mount St. Helens erupted, Archbishop Òscar Romero was murdered in San Salvador, John Lennon was murdered in New York, Dorothy Stratten was murdered in Los Angeles, and we also lost Jimmy Durante, Tex Avery and came close to losing Richard Pryor. The sexual revolution was over, and not only had we lost but they were shooting the prisoners. And just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse somehow the star of Bedtimes for Bozo got elected president.

But nothing – and I do mean nothing – epitomized those dark and dreary times better to me than that celluloid musical harbinger of the “end of days”: Xanadu. There are still nights I am torn from a troubled sleep in sweat soaked sheets to find myself sitting bolt upright in bed as the residue of a nightmare echoes faintly in my ear:

“A place where nobody dares to go…”

The horror…the horror.

So I guess you can say I’m not a fan of Xanadu.

But two things I have come to expect from the DOMA Theatre Company: First, that somewhere during the play, the company’s mascot, a stuffed duck, will appear. Second, that despite my curmudgeon reservations about the material, they will somehow manage to entertain me beyond expectations. Xanadu proves no exception.

If you’ve seen the Olivia Newton John/John Beck film you know the plot, and if you haven’t seen it boy are you lucky! (Okay, okay enough dumping on the film!) Sonny Malone (Matt O’Neill) is a Venice Beach artist who paints murals on abandoned buildings, but dreams of greater things. Enter the nine Muses fresh from Mount Olympus with inspiration to spare.

Clio, muse of history (Lovlee Carroll) dons the roller skating disguise of “Kira” to help Sonny realize his potential. But unbeknownst to her, siblings Calliope, muse of epic poetry (Brittany Rodin) and Melpomene, muse of tragedy (Veronica Scheyving), jealous of the favor shown her by Zeus, plot her downfall.

The 1980 film was a patchwork woven from other flicks. The overall plot was taken from the 1947 film Down to Earth, with a pitch of the 1948 Ava Gardner musical vehicle One Touch of Venus tossed in for luck. While Gene Kelly’s role of Danny Maguire, which was sadly to be his last film appearance, was lifted from the 1944 musical comedy “Cover Girl”.

Director Hallie Baran wisely works the production with tongue firmly planted in cheek, managing to please both fans and non-fans of the original. O’Neill and Carroll pull off the star-crossed lovers nicely. David Michael Treviño is a tad wobbly in the role of Danny Maguire, but once he starts singing all is forgiven. Scheyving is deliciously deceitful as she plots “Kira’s” downfall and Rodin as her henchwoman displays a strong comic timing. Alan Lee, pressed into service as Terpsichore the muse of dance, shows he has the right steps, while Bradley Sattler as Thalia, muse of comedy, serves up a satisfying slice of lunacy.

One thing that DOMA has going for it is a superb production team in Marco Gomez and Dolf Ramos who have assembled a powerhouse of creative talent about them. Musical director Chris Raymond works the tunes tidily here, and the set by Amanda Lawson skillfully accommodates the demands of the production. Choreographer Angela Todaro once more bedazzles with her finesse in fitting dancers to stage flawlessly.

All in all, another standout production from the talented folks at DOMA.

And wait; hold on, Israel and Egypt established diplomatic relations in 1980! And the US Olympic hockey team kicked the Soviet Union’s butt in the Winter Olympics, and Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back was released and Pac-man hit all the arcades, and we found out “Who shot J.R.” and Autumn Reeser and Ellie Kemper and Yao Ming and Jørgen Strickert were all born!

Well, okay, maybe 1980 didn’t suck all that much after all.