Saturday, April 9, 2011

- Theater Review - Xanadu

Eastlight Theatre opened their 20th season on Friday night with the regional premiere of "Xanadu".

I have made the statement here before that I feel Eastlight sets the bar for local theater.  Their productions have always been professional and well done, and I always anticipate their short season of three plays.

However, I am sad to say that all the gods on Olympus could not make this turkey sing.

There have been a lot of successful musicals made from films that were not necessarily successful.  Examples of this include "Hairspray" (coming later in Eastlight's season), "The Producers", "Spamalot", etc.

The difference is that these films, while not blockbusters, were smart and funny gems that achieved some level of cult devotion. 

"Xanadu", on the other hand, was a truly bad movie that is not much improved by its transfer to the stage.

Having said this, there were some excellent performances that might have saved this production, if not for technical issues.

First and foremost is Jeremy Kelly.
Mr. Kelly previously lit up the Eastlight stage with his wonderful performances in last season's "Altar Boyz" and "All Shook Up".
Here, as Sonny Malone, he does everything an actor can do for the role.  His singing and dancing are truly excellent.

Ayana Pankey and Erin Miller shine as Melpomene and Calliope respectively.  Ms. Miller in particular was an audience favorite as she captured all the comedic elements of her role.

Julie Boesch brings the required sweetness to her role as Kira/Clio. (and she is not too bad on roller skates!)

Carl Williams as Danny McGuire/Zeus has a fine voice, although his acting performance can only be described as wooden.

With an exception or two, the choreography was sub-standard, as is the direction.

Part of the problem, and this is particularly true of the closing title number, is that the performers require an energetic response from the audience. 
Sadly, this was the sparsest crowd I have ever seen at Eastlight.  The older crowd did not help the cast deliver the knockout finale that could have been achieved.

And now about those technical issues.

I have often criticized the poor sound quality at Peoria Players.  This has never been a problem at Eastlight.
Until last night. 

While the male lead came through loud and clear, the other players were at times unintelligible.  The women particularly were muffled and unclear during the entire first act.

What happened, Eastlight?
Did you get a new sound system?  If so, please try to get the old one back.
Did you get new mics?  If so, please try to get the old ones back.
Did you get new sound technicians?  If so, please try to get the old ones back.
Is this a classic case of fixing something that wasn't broken?

I can honestly say this is one of the very few times I have been disappointed with an Eastlight performance.
Let's hope that it can be chalked up to opening night jitters and technical snafus that will be improved for the rest of the run.

"Xanadu" continues April 9th, 10th, and the 13th through the 16th at East Peoria Community High School Auditorium.  Tickets can be reserved through the box office at 699-SHOW.


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