[gss-content-box color=”yellow”]At the 44th annual regional meeting of the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival at Weber State University, UTBA was invited to participate in the critics’ workshop. At the workshop, we—along with critics for traditional media outlets—met with student critics and gave them feedback on their reviews of productions that played at the festival. Below is the review from one student critic, Jesse Soper of Mesa Community College in Mesa, Arizona, who reviewed the Weber State University production of Xanadu. We appreciate Mr. Soper’s work and we invite UTBA readers and those who saw the show to let him know what they think of his review.[/box]

Student Review: XANADU is a roller derby jam session

OGDEN — Weber State University’s production of Xanadu, written by Douglas Carter Beane, is a reconstruction of a 1980 cult film classic. It features the tale of an aspiring young artist Sonny Malone (Sean Bishop), who at the beginning of the play is on the verge of suicide. But after a mural he paints of Greek babes comes to life, he is convinced of a different plan of action: to build the apex of all arts at once—the Roller Disco.

The music of this play brought me back to my childhood. The score written by Jeff Lynne and John Farrar was mainly rock/pop, like Stevie Nicks or Phil Collins, with a few insertions of other musical styles. It was a treat to have a live band play the music for the songs that were sung during the performance. The entire ensemble did a wonderful job. The costumes of Tyler Banks were effective at showing the Grecian style with a 1980’s flair, even though they were relatively generic. The direction and choreography by Jim Christian brought together an impressive weaving and threading movements of the performers on roller skates.

Bishop delivered his comedic lines with fabulous timing. His clumsy gyrations to music only he could hear made me smile every time, although his voice was in some of the musical numbers was overpowered by his female counterpart Kira (Breanne Welch). Welch was very funny as the spunky and very excitable leader of the muses, sort of like a supernatural cheerleader whose pop never ends. Danny Maguire (Rick Rea) succeeded in giving me the feeling of the stereotypical millionaire industrialist as the owner of the building to be the Xanadu. David Higley’s portrayal of the muse of dance was also double cast as the younger version of Danny Maguire had several amazing dance numbers, especially a tabletop tap session in the office of his older self. I personally fell in love with Calliope (Shelby Anderson) who plays the evil, nerdy muse of epics. The delivery of her lines to her dancing style had me laughing the whole time.

The set basic by Van Tinkham had two rolling stairwells that came out for what I call “a rock/pop battle through time.” The set made me feel a little off-center, though because there were six pillars, each with a slanted edge pointing inwards, except for two of the pillars. And I could see the crew in the catwalks above the stage working and the motion continuously drew me eyes up and to them. This was very distracting throughout the production. I was also distracted by the four large drapes that descended during the show because they got bunched up on the edges.

Despite a few techical issues I enjoyed they play and would suggest it to anyone looking for a little bit of light hearted fun and romance.

– Jesse Soper of Mesa Community College in Mesa, Arizona

This remount of Weber State University’s production of Xanadu played at the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival regional conference on February 8, 2012.