Campy and heartwarming “Xanadu” sparkles at the Workhouse Arts Center

campy in the best possible way, Xanadu is a goofy and lighthearted, yet oddly heartwarming tale that pushes the limits of how much an audience is willing to vent their disbelief amid fits of laughter.

Xanadu, a Tony-nominated musical based on the 1980 film of the same name, delivers an inspirational story wrapped in a fantasy-romantic-adventure. The Workhouse Arts Center rendition, directed and choreographed by Stefan Sittig, captures their whimsical and heartbreaking comedy.

Xanadu follows Greek muse Clio (Jessica Barraclough) who travels to Earth disguised as Australian Kira to help struggling artist Sonny (Pat Mahoney) overcome his creative block and pursue his dreams. Both mortal and divine hijinks ensue as the pair grow closer, eventually learning the value of pursuing their dreams despite potential obstacles.

Jessica Barraclough as Kira and Pat Mahoney as Sonny in Xanadu. Photo by Kayla Garcia Photography.

The cast delivered magnetic performances. Each of the nine muses was bursting with personality. While Barraclough definitely embraced her role as the main muse – to – girl – of “Down Under,” moving with grace and charming with her sweet and melodious voice, her sisters were equally up to the task of portraying their divine characters, filling the stage every time they entered a scene with almost divine charisma.

Melpomene (Jolene Vettese) and Calliope (Audrey Baker), Kira’s scheming muse sisters, consistently stood out. Borrowing from the Greek myths from which their characters derive, Vettese and Baker portrayed the evil muses with an air of villainous grandiosity. As they pranced and pranced across the stage, cackling and delivering every line with charisma and spite, the two worked together to sell their characters’ entertaining, over-the-top villainess and enhance the show’s overall humor.

Audrey Baker as Caliope and Jolene Vettese as Melpomene in Xanadu. Photo by Kayla Garcia Photography.

Every minute from Xanadu It was a pleasure to watch the show’s heartwarming story and inspirational themes with welcome humor and hilarity. From visual gags and clever puns to eccentric mannerisms and fourth-wall breaks, almost every scene has the audience cracking up with laughter.

by his cheerfulness, Xanadu maintained a surprisingly heartwarming tone, a welcome element that can be attributed to its wonderful cast and the sheer chemistry they had together. From Melpomene and Calliope’s delightfully villainous antics to Kira and Sonny’s budding relationship, the cast captured every scene with believable charm and gaiety.

The songs of Xanadu also worked perfectly as the cast gave vocally captivating performances. Directed by Merissa Martignoni Driscoll, the show’s musical elements were themed, enriching each scene with lively riffs and melodic chords while complementing the characterization of the show’s star players.

“Evil Woman,” Melpomene and Calliope’s premier villain song, showcased the vocal prowess of the cast as Vettese struck impressive tones amidst Baker’s hilarious (but equally impressive) adlibs and riffs. “Suddenly

Jessica Barraclough as Kira and Pat Mahoney as Sonny in Xanadu. Photo by Kayla Garcia Photography.

enly” was equally captivating as Barraclough and Mahoney wowed audiences with their sweet harmonies and conveyed their characters’ growing bond.

The choreography in Xanadu was energetic and rousing and suited the music perfectly. Sittig’s choreography was particularly mesmerizing when the muses danced in unison while managing to maintain their individual quirks in every movement. The cast gracefully glided across the stage, often literally, as Barraclough and Mahoney spent much of the show in roller skates.

The show’s wonderful costumes combined the choreography, singing and performances. Almost the entire cast acted as backup dancers and scene fillers when their main character wasn’t needed, and they always wore sparkling and period costumes. The dresses worn by the muses were particularly intriguing, as each muse wore a Greek dress of a different color and cut to match their personality.

In total, Xanadu was incredibly entertaining and worth seeing. Filled to the brim with charisma and humor, the show boasts a fountain of creativity and charm that is sure to impress its audience, leaving them nostalgic for the 80’s and hoping for its own divinely weird magic.

Running time: 90 minutes without a break.

Xanadu runs through June 11, 2022 at the Workhouse Arts Center – W-3 Theater 9518 Workhouse Way, Lorton, VA, 22079. Tickets ($20-$30) are available for purchase on-line.

The Xanadu program is online here.

COVID Safety: The Workhouse Arts Foundation, which operates the Workhouse Arts Center, highly recommended that all staff, artists, volunteers, students and patrons wear a mask in any of the Workhouse buildings.

Book by Douglas Carter Beane
Music and Lyrics by Jeff Lynne and John Farrar based on the Universal Pictures film, written by Richard Danus and Marc Rubel
Directed and choreographed by Stefan Sittig
Musical direction by Merissa Martignoni Driscoll

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