Center Stage with Pat Launer on KSDS JAZZ88
AIRDATE: NOVEMBER 28, 2008
‘ Tis the season to be silly. Times are tough, the news just keeps getting worse; you might as well escape completely. And have I got the shows for you!
Remember “ Xanadu ,” the movie? That 1980 classic that was, perhaps, one of the worst films ever made? Gene Kelly on roller skates? — What were they thinking! Even Olivia Newton-John said she cringes whenever she watches the film. Well, it’s back — as a musical, that riffs on every cheesy element of the original. First, you might recall, there’s the Muse and her sister Muses (some of whom are played by men here). She springs to life to help a struggling artist create the apotheosis of art: a roller disco. You thought it couldn’t get any more preposterous? Think again, my friend!
Playwright Douglas Carter Beane and director Christopher Ashley are spoofing everything from the Greek gods to “Clash of the Titans,” from Newton-John to Medusa, from the artlessness of the ‘80s to the airheadedness of Venice Beach , to (gasp!) theater itself. The choreography spans the centuries, but leg-warmers trump all. The music remains the same, those “Mamma Mia”-like, can’t-get-‘ em-outta-your-head Electric Light Orchestra classics like “Strange Magic,” “Evil Woman” and the timeless title tune. Plenty of mirror-balls on hand for atmosphere. It’s so outlandish you have to laugh. Jaded New York critics and audiences raved, and the show was nominated for a Best Musical Tony Award. Now Ashley, artistic director of the La Jolla Playhouse, gives us a first crack at it, before this production goes off on national tour. So put on your sweatband, leave your mind at home, and go.
Or, head to Hillcrest for “Scrooge in Rouge,” where ‘don we now our gay apparel’ takes on a whole new meaning. Diversionary Theatre transports you to a 19th century English music-hall, with all the slapstick, pratfalls and dreadful puns that entails. Three talented performers (including a man and a woman in drag) play 23 characters in a zillion quick-change costumes, to enact ‘A Christmas Carol,’ like you’ve never seen it. Music and pandemonium abound.
Now, if you like a little more bite in your humor, you won’t want to miss “U.S. Drag,” which finally, has nothing to do with cross-dressing. In this black comedy, two smart but vapid New York chicks desperately seek fame and fortune without any expended effort. They think their quickest route to affluence is to collect the $100,000 reward on a serial killer. Along the way, they meet a pack of pathetic guys. It’s a dark meditation on a few of America ’s least savory obsessions, and it’s wonderfully well done at ion theatre, under the excellent direction of Claudio Raygoza.
So, choose your comical poison… and you might just die laughing!
“Scrooge in Rouge” runs through December 21 at Diversionary Theatre, on the edge of Hillcrest.
“ U.S. Drag” plays through December 21 at ion theatre, near SDSU.
“ Xanadu ” continues through December 31 at the La Jolla Playhouse on the campus of UCSD.
©2008 PAT LAUNER