Xanadu (musical)

Xanadu is a musical comedy with a book by Douglas Carter Beane and music and lyrics by Jeff Lynne and John Farrar, based on the 1980 film of the same name, which was, in turn, inspired by the 1947 Rita Hayworth film Down to Earth,[1] a sequel to the 1941 movie Here Comes Mr. Jordan, which was an adaptation of the play Heaven Can Wait by Harry Segall. The title is a reference to the poem Kubla Khan, or A Vision in a Dream. A Fragment, by Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Xanadu is the name of the Chinese province where Khan establishes his pleasure garden in the poem.

Broadway poster
MusicJeff Lynne and John Farrar
LyricsJeff Lynne and John Farrar
BookDouglas Carter Beane
Basis1980 film Xanadu
Productions2007 Workshop
2007 Broadway
2009 US Tour
2015 London
AwardsOuter Critics Circle Award for Best Musical
Drama Desk Award for Best Book

The musical opened on Broadway in 2007 and ran for over 500 performances. It earned an Outer Critics Circle Award for Best Musical and a Drama Desk Award for Best Book. It was also nominated for Tony Awards for Best Musical and Best Book. The US Tour officially began on December 15, 2009, in the Orange County Performing Arts Center. A Korean production has opened.


The 1980 film on which Xanadu is based barely broke even at the box office and received uniformly unfavorable reviews, but the soundtrack was a commercial hit, as were several of the songs singularly. Although the film was nominated for six Razzies, winning one for worst director, it became a cult classic. Announcements that the film would be adapted as a Broadway show drew skepticism and even derision, even from Carter Beane, who adapted the script.[2]

According to Beane, in rewriting the script for the musical, he was influenced not only by the 1980 Xanadu film, but also by the 1981 fantasy film Clash of the Titans, prompting him to add the subplot "in which Kira’s jealous sister-muses doom her to fall in love with a mortal, incurring the wrath of their father, Zeus."[1] He has noted that the stage musical focuses more on the Greek mythology plotlines but has "a lot of [parody] references to the movie."[3]

The score retains the hits from the film and also includes new arrangements by Eric Stern of "I'm Alive," "Magic," "Suddenly," and "Dancin'," as well as integrating two classic Electric Light Orchestra songs, "Strange Magic" and "Evil Woman," plus Farrar's "Have You Never Been Mellow."


Workshop productionsEdit

The musical was first given a workshop production and backers' audition at the Minetta Lane Theater in Greenwich Village, New York City, in January 2007, featuring performances by Jane Krakowski, Tony Roberts, and Cheyenne Jackson. Readings of the stage version had previously been held on April 21 and August 3, 2006, at New World Stages in Manhattan.[4]

Krakowski and Jackson were cast in their respective leading roles of Clio/Kira and Sonny Malone for the Broadway run, but both eventually dropped out. Jane cited her TV shooting schedule on the NBC show 30 Rock, while Jackson cited post-production commitments for his film Hysteria.[5]

Helen Hayes Theatre showing Xanadu, 2007

Broadway productionEdit

Xanadu began previews on Broadway on May 23, 2007, at the Helen Hayes Theatre and opened on July 10, 2007. The production was directed by Christopher Ashley and choreographed by Dan Knechtges, with sets by David Gallo, lighting by Howell Binkley, costumes by David Zinn, sound by T. Richard Fitzgerald and Carl Cassella and projections by Zachary Borovay. The key producers were Robert Ahrens, Tara Smith and Brian Swibel.[6]

The production included a considerable amount of skating for the characters Kira and Sonny, and the set extended over the orchestra pit partly into the audience. The show was presented partially in the round, with some audience members seated on benches on the stage. Like several other recent Broadway shows, a small cast was used, and the relatively short show (90 minutes) was played without intermission. James Carpinello was cast as Sonny and played the role during May and June previews. The actor injured his foot rollerskating during a rehearsal on June 12, 2007.[7] Cast members Andre Ward and Curtis Holbrook alternated in the role of Sonny until Carpinello's replacement, Cheyenne Jackson, assumed the role on June 21, 2007.

The opening night cast included Jackson as Sonny Malone, Kerry Butler as Kira, Tony Roberts as Danny Maguire, and Jackie Hoffman and Mary Testa as "evil" Muse sisters, part of a new plot twist introduced in the Broadway version. Olivia Newton-John (star of the film) and composer John Farrar attended on opening night and joined the cast on stage during the curtain call. Whoopi Goldberg replaced Hoffman for a six-week run on July 28.

The production closed on September 28, 2008, after 49 previews and 513 performances.[8]

First U.S. TourEdit

The tour opened at the La Jolla Playhouse in San Diego, California, on November 11, 2008, and played until December 31, 2008. A Chicago run of the production began in January 2009 preceding the U.S. national tour.[9] The Chicago run ended on March 29, 2009, and the production ran in Tokyo for a month. Elizabeth Stanley played Kira, and Max von Essen portrayed Sonny in the La Jolla, Chicago, and Tokyo runs of the production. The new U.S. national tour opened on December 15, 2009, in Costa Mesa, California, with Stanley and Von Essen.[10]

Cancelled second U.S. TourEdit

The second U.S. Tour of Xanadu was scheduled to begin in September 2019. This production would have starred former RuPaul's Drag Race contestants Ginger Minj and Jinkx Monsoon as Melpomene/Medusa and Calliope/Aphrodite respectively.[11] On September 20, 2019, it was announced that the tour has been canceled because of "soft ticket sales in certain markets".[12]

Other productionsEdit

The producers of Xanadu licensed the exclusive Korean language rights to the show to Tin Tin Entertainment for two years. A production in Seoul opened in 2008.[13] It starred Super Junior members Heechul and Kangin, rotating in the role of Sunny and played from on 9 September to 23 November 2008 at Doosan Art Center.[14]

The Philippine production of Xanadu was mounted by Atlantis Productions, who staged the musical beginning September 3–19, 2010, with Rachel Alejandro and Felix Rivera in the roles of Clio/Kira and Sonny, respectively.

The Australian production opened on March 1, 2011, in a big top called the Grand Xanadu Marquee in the Melbourne Docklands. The roles of Clio/Kira, Sonny, Danny/Zeus, Calliope/Aphrodite and Melpomene/Medusa were played by Christie Whelan, Sam Ludeman, John McTernan, Susan-Ann Walker, and Cherine Peck, respectively.[15]

A London production opened at the Southwark Playhouse Theatre in October 2015 produced by David Ian Ltd. This production added Olivia Newton John's popular hit "Physical".

A Sydney, Australia production commenced performances on May 12, 2016 at the Hayes Theatre. The production, directed and choreographed by Nathan M. Wright, starred Jaime Hadwen (Clio/Kira), Ainsley Melham (Sonny), Rob Thomas (Danny) with Jayde Westaby, Francine Cain, James Maxfield, Dion Bilios, Kay Hoyos and Catty Hamilton. Musical Direction was by Andrew Bevis and the production was produced by Matthew Henderson (Matthew Management).

The show was staged at the American Theater Company in Chicago, Illinois, for seven weeks in 2016.

The show also had a successful thirteen week run in 2017–2018 at the Civic Light Opera in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; three weeks were added to the original run because of demand for ticket sales. Pittsburgh is the hometown of Xanadu film star Gene Kelly, and the musical was done in part as homage to the former screen great and Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera honorary chairman of the board.


It is 1980, and chalk artist Sonny Malone is dissatisfied with his sidewalk mural of the Greek Muses (daughters of Zeus) and determines to kill himself. On Mount Olympus, Clio (pronounced "Kleye-o"), the youngest, perkiest Muse, convinces her six sisters (two of whom are men), to travel to Venice Beach (rising out of the sidewalk mural) to inspire Sonny ("I'm Alive"). Zeus's rules require that Muses must always be disguised from mortals. Clio has the idea to wear roller skates, leg warmers, and sport an Australian accent, and the other muses agree. Clio changes her name to something contemporary: "Kira". Quickly inspired ("Magic"), Sonny decides that he can combine all the arts and "something athletic" all into one spectacular entertainment: a roller disco.

Two of Clio's sisters, Melpomene (the oldest sister) and Calliope, are jealous that Clio (although the youngest) is the leader of the Muses and that Zeus had promised "Xanadu" to Clio, although no one knows exactly what that entails ("Evil Woman"). So they plot to discredit Clio and cause her banishment by tricking her into breaking one of Zeus's rules: a Muse must not fall in love with a mortal, so they will curse "Kira" and Sonny to fall in love.

Meanwhile, Sonny finds a good location for the roller disco, a long-abandoned theater in the Fairfax district of Los Angeles called "Xanadu." "Kira" inspires him to locate the owner in the phone book ("Suddenly"), and they set up a meeting with real estate mogul Danny Maguire, who used to be a big band clarinetist before he started in the real estate game.

Sonny visits hard-hearted Danny in his posh office in downtown Los Angeles and tries to convince him to donate the theater for the roller disco, because it would bring the arts to the Fairfax district and drive up real estate values. But Danny scoffs, even though he had plans to open the theater himself, once upon a time. As Sonny leaves, "Kira" arrives, jogging Danny's memories of an old love and dance partner of his, who looked suspiciously like "Kira," named Kitty("Whenever You're Away from Me"). Kitty tells Danny that although he had let his greed stop him from pursuing his dream to open the theater 35 years ago, he has a chance to redeem himself now by opening the roller disco with Sonny. Danny finds Sonny and tells him that if he can get the disco up and running in one day, he'll give him 25% of the take from the Disco ("Dancin'"). Excited, Sonny readily agrees.

Sonny finds "Kira" and tells her the good news. She is not impressed with the deal that he has cut. It is then that the evil sisters work their curse, and the winged Eros, along with "Mama Cupid", shoots "Kira" and Sonny with the arrows of love ("Strange Magic"). "Kira" is soon overwhelmed with guilt over her loving feelings and of having created her own art (a hand-drawn picture) alongside Sonny – both violations of Zeus's restrictions on the Muses.

With the help of some of the muses, "Kira" and Sonny fix up the old theater ("All Over the World"), and Danny agrees to go ahead with the opening. Clio realizes that she is falling in love with Sonny and tells him that she must leave ("Don't Walk Away"). But the evil sisters are not finished. Now they offer Danny piles of money if he will tear down the theater and build condos. Danny can't resist and tells Sonny that the deal is off.

"Kira" comes back to tell Sonny that she loves him, but the evil sisters tell her that she has broken Zeus's rules, and that she must tell Sonny the truth. So "Kira" reveals all to Sonny, including that her name is Clio, but he does not believe her and is upset. He suggests that she is a crackpot. He also doubts that she really loves him, and she is angry and hurt ("Fool"). The evil sisters have triumphed ("The Fall"), and Kira sets off for Mount Olympus to receive her punishment from Zeus ("Suspended in Time").

Meanwhile, Sonny and Danny discuss "Kira" and after seeing her in the sky, it all makes sense. Danny tells Sonny not to let go of his muse because of foolish pride as he once did back in the 1940s. Sonny, realizing that he really loves "Kira," decides to find her - even if it means climbing Mount Olympus.

Back on Mount Olympus, Zeus's wives ask him to take pity on Clio ("Have You Never Been Mellow"). Thetis retells the story of Achilles and his vulnerable heel. All the demi-gods and demi-goddesses are so afflicted. This gives Clio an epiphany: She, too, is invulnerable, except for her heels, but when the evil sisters had her shot with the arrows of love, she had been wearing the "mighty legwarmers," and so she must have been completely invulnerable. This means that she really did love Sonny! Kira then declares her love for Sonny and rips off her legwarmers ("I'm Free") and attempts to fly away with Pegasus and Sonny, before Zeus pulls them down with copper chains. Sonny brashly declares that he would even fight Zeus for the woman he loves. Zeus, impressed with his pluck, decides to pardon Clio. The two evil sisters are displeased, the lovers are reunited, and Zeus reveals what Xanadu is: "True love and the ability to create and share art." Clio and Sonny go back to L.A. and Xanadu ("Xanadu").

Musical numbersEdit

  • "I'm Alive" – Clio/Kira and the Muses
  • "Magic" – Kira
  • "Evil Woman"– Melpomene, Calliope and the Sirens
  • "Suddenly" – Kira and Sonny
  • "Whenever You're Away From Me" – Danny and Kira
  • "Dancin’" – Danny, Sonny and the Muses
  • "Strange Magic" – Melpomene, Calliope and Kira
  • "All Over the World" – Sonny, Danny and the Muses
  • "Don't Walk Away" – Sonny, Danny and the Muses
  • "Fool" – Kira and the Muses
  • "The Fall" – Sonny and the Muses
  • "Suspended in Time" – Kira and Sonny
  • "Have You Never Been Mellow" – Kira and the Greek gods
  • "I'm Free" Kira, Sonny, and Pegasus [Young Woman]†
  • "Xanadu" – Kira, Sonny, Danny and the Muses

† Does not appear on the cast recording


The following are the casts of the major productions:

Character Broadway 2007 U.S. Tour 2008
Clio / Kira Kerry Butler Elizabeth Stanley
Sonny Malone Cheyenne Jackson Max von Essen
Danny Maguire, Zeus Tony Roberts Larry Marshall
Melpomene, Medusa Mary Testa Natasha Yvette Williams
Calliope, Aphrodite Jackie Hoffman Annie Golden
Thalia, Siren, '80s Singer, Cyclops, Young Danny Curtis Holbrook Jason Michael Snow (also Eros)
Euterpe, Siren, '40s Singer, Thetis Anika Larsen Veronica J Kuehn
Erato, Siren, '40s Singer, Hera, Eros Kenita R. Miller Chauntee Schuler
Terpsichore, Suthiba, Siren, '80s Singer, Hermes, Centaur Andre Ward Jesse Nager (also Young Danny)

Critical receptionEdit

Xanadu's opening night reviews from the New York critics were mostly positive. The musical broke the Helen Hayes one-day box office record the day after the reviews came out.[16]

Charles Isherwood, in The New York Times, wrote that the show is "simultaneously indefensible and irresistible... there’s so much silly bliss to be had... there is enough first-rate stage talent rolling around in Xanadu to power a season of wholly new, old-school, non-jukebox musicals, if someone would get around to writing a few good ones... the show’s winking attitude toward its own aesthetic abjectness can be summed up thus: If you can’t beat ’em, slap on some roller skates and join ’em." Although Isherwood praised most of the cast, he noted that the musical "does have a few dead spots in its brisk 90-minute running time.... Mr. Beane’s inspiration seems to have failed him when it came to minting fresh fun from the subplot involving flashbacks to Danny’s 1940s romance. The stage "Xanadu" can't really muster much in the way of an extravaganza, either.... The production is skimpy on both the casting and design fronts."[17]

Hilton Als' review in The New Yorker called Xanadu "probably the most fun you’ll have on Broadway this season, one reason being that everything about it is so resolutely anti-Broadway. In its wildness and ecstasy, Xanadu is a welcome relief from the synthetic creations that some Broadway producers have been peddling for years. Here you can’t count the disco balls fast enough—not to mention the roller skates, the frosted-pink lips, and the glittering spandex that the director, Christopher Ashley, hurls at you like a PCP flashback. Xanadu is far sleazier and cheesier than conventional musical theatre, and it points out just how tame most other musicals are."[18]

Original cast recordingEdit

PS Classics recorded the original cast recording of the musical on October 29, 2007 and released it to stores on January 8, 2008.

Cubby Bernstein promotionEdit

On May 10, 2008, a video introducing "Tony Campaign Manager Cubby Bernstein" was released on YouTube. The video features past Tony Award winners like Duncan Sheik, Julie White, Beth Leavel, John Cullum, Martin Richards and Carole Shelley. Pre-pubescent "Cubby" claims to have been behind 63 Tony wins.[19] Additional videos were released every few days. On the second episode, the producers of Xanadu ask Cubby if he would campaign for their show, but Cubby refuses, saying that it is a show for "the gay boys". However, the producers convince Cubby to go and see the show, which "bowls him over".[20] He then says that Xanadu can win the Tony, creating the campaign's slogan "Yes It Can!"

Subsequent episodes feature more Tony Award winners like Patti LuPone, Cynthia Nixon, Adriane Lenox, John Lloyd Young and John Gallagher Jr., and follow Cubby while he shows the cast of Xanadu the "Cubby steps to the Tony". Cubby makes them sell "Cub-Cakes" to benefit the charity Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS during the one-year anniversary of Xanadu on Broadway,[21] teaches them "the art of the shmooze" and helps them build up their confidence. The sixth and most popular video is the only one in which Cubby doesn't appear. It features Tony winner Nathan Lane and most of the Xanadu male cast.

Xanadu producers never acknowledged that Cubby Bernstein was a publicity stunt, although Douglas Carter Beane stated on May 15 that he believed this year "[Cubby] is going to go with Xanadu".[22] Cubby Bernstein has been identified by Variety as child actor Adam Riegler, who appeared in the 2007 revival of I and Albert and as Pugsley Addams in The Addams Family.[23] Playwright Paul Downs Colaizzo helped to create and also appeared in the series. Xanadu did not win any Tony Awards.

Awards and nominationsEdit

Original Broadway productionEdit

Year Award Ceremony Category Nominee Result Ref
2008 Tony Award Best Musical Nominated [24]
Best Book of a Musical Douglas Carter Beane Nominated
Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical Kerry Butler Nominated
Best Choreography Dan Knechtges Nominated
Drama Desk Award Outstanding Musical Nominated [25]
Outstanding Book of a Musical Douglas Carter Beane Won
Outstanding Actor in a Musical Cheyenne Jackson Nominated
Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical Mary Testa Nominated
Outstanding Director of a Musical Christopher Ashley Nominated
Outstanding Choreography Dan Knechtges Nominated


  1. ^ a b Martin, Michael. "In Down to Earth, Terpsichore, a muse from ancient Greece, infiltrates a Broadway show about the nine muses". New York Times. Retrieved May 29, 2007.
  2. ^ Martin, Michael. "Springtime for 'Xanadu'", New York Magazine, May 28, 2007
  3. ^ Robert Viagas, Information from Playbill.com news Archived May 12, 2007, at the Wayback Machine, Playbill Online, May 10, 2007
  4. ^ Gans, Andrew (January 20, 2007). "Xanadu Workshop — with Krakowski and Jackson — Presented Jan. 20-21". Playbill.com. Archived from the original on February 18, 2007. Retrieved January 29, 2007.
  5. ^ Riegel, Katie (July 8, 2007). "Interview With Cheyenne Jackson". Broadway.com.
  6. ^ David, Cara Joy (July 7, 2007). "Old Movie, New Musical, First-Time Producers".
  7. ^ "Xanadu Star James Carpinello Exits Roller-Skating Musical With Injured Foot". Broadway.com. June 13, 2007. Retrieved June 13, 2007.
  8. ^ broadway.com Staff (September 23, 2008). "Xanadu Moves Up Broadway Closing Date to 9/28". Broadway.com. Retrieved September 23, 2008.
  9. ^ Gans, Andrew (May 16, 2008). "Xanadu Will Kick Off Tour in California; Chicago to Follow". Playbill.com. Archived from the original on May 18, 2008. Retrieved May 17, 2008.
  10. ^ Gans, Andrew and Hetrick, Adam. "Xanadu Tour Re-Launches Dec. 15 with Stanley, Von Essen, Golden, Marshall, Duda, Nager" Archived October 16, 2012, at the Wayback Machine. Playbill.com, December 15, 2009
  11. ^ Sullivan, Lindsey (June 12, 2019). "Xanadu Is Heading on Tour with RuPaul's Drag Race Royals Ginger Minj & Jinkx Monsoon". Broadway.com. Retrieved August 11, 2019.
  12. ^ Hetrick, Adam. " Xanadu Tour, Starring RuPaul’s Drag Race Favorites Jinkx Monsoon and Ginger Minj, Canceled" Playbill, September 20, 2019
  13. ^ Gans, Andrew (December 11, 2007). "Xanadu Will Play South Korea in 2008". Playbill.com. Archived from the original on May 13, 2008. Retrieved May 17, 2008.
  14. ^ Koh Young-aah "Super Junior members set to make move into musicals" Korea Herald. 30 May 2008. Retrieved 2012-04-03
  15. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on February 21, 2011. Retrieved June 8, 2016.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link) xanaduthemusical.com.au
  16. ^ Information from Playbill News, July 12, 2007 Archived July 16, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  17. ^ Isherwood, Charles (July 11, 2007). "Heaven on Wheels, and in Leg Warmers". The New York Times.
  18. ^ Als, Hilton (July 23, 2007). "Chasing The Muse: "Xanadu" on Broadway and a rock operetta about Martin Luther King, Jr". The New Yorker.
  19. ^ Hetrick, Adam (June 21, 2008). ""In it for Life": Cubby Bernstein Takes a Moment for Playbill.com". Playbill. Archived from the original on May 28, 2008. Retrieved June 6, 2008.
  20. ^ Varley, Eddie (June 28, 2008). "Tony's 2008 Q&A: Cubby Bernstein". Broadway World. Retrieved June 6, 2008.
  21. ^ Gans, Andrew (May 22, 2008). "Cubby Bernstein to Speak at Xanadu's One-Year Anniversary Celebration". Playbill. Archived from the original on May 28, 2008. Retrieved June 6, 2008.
  22. ^ Robertson, Campbell (May 15, 2008). "Insert Tony Stunt Here". The New York Times. Retrieved June 6, 2008.
  23. ^ Lenzy, Linda (January 7, 2007). "Photo Coverage: York Theatre Company's I and Albert". Broadway World. Retrieved June 6, 2008.
  24. ^ Gans, Andrew (May 13, 2008). "2007-2008 Tony Nominations Announced; In the Heights Earns 13 Noms". Playbill.com. Archived from the original on May 16, 2008. Retrieved May 13, 2008.
  25. ^ Gans, Andrew (April 28, 2008). "53rd Annual Drama Desk Award Nominees Announced". Playbill.com. Archived from the original on May 1, 2008. Retrieved April 28, 2008.

External linksEdit