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High school students roll out a disco musical
Another Greek myth rolls into the Vashon High School theater, this time in the form of the pop-rock roller-disco musical “Xanadu.” For the next two weekends, VHS students will don roller skates to give this Broadway hit some amusing wheels.
In a campy twist on a traditional Greek theme of romance between a demi-goddess and a man, “Xanadu” is set in the 1980s at the height of the disco era. Clio, a beautiful and alluring Greek muse, descends from Mt. Olympus to none other than Venice Beach, California, with a mission to light a fire under Sonny, a struggling artist whose dream is to create the first-ever roller disco. Their story unfolds to a score composed by pop-rock legends Jeff Lynne and John Farrar and includes hits like “Evil Woman,” “All Over the World,” “Strange Magic,” “I’m Alive” and the title song, “Xanadu.”
VHS drama teacher Stephen Floyd did not intend to put on another show based on a Greek myth after he directed students in Ovid’s “Metamorphoses” last February. But extenuating circumstances led Floyd to choose “Xanadu.” He needed a small cast with a good script and engaging music. His first choice, he soon realized, had a paltry score. When a fellow island thespian suggested “Xanadu,” Floyd looked into it. He liked the script and the score and so did the students.
“It’s an interesting story,” he said, “but I’m glad I didn’t see the movie until after reading the script. The movie was awful.”
The 1980 film “Xanadu” starring Gene Kelly and Olivia Newton-John was critically panned but eventually became a cult classic. When Douglas Carter Beane adapted the script for the stage, the musical became a Broadway hit.
As for the actors on roller skates, only a couple will skate throughout the show, with most of the cast rolling in for the finale. During rehearsals somebody inevitably goes down, but Floyd said he feels that the experience — as long as no one gets hurt — provides an opportunity to learn how to stay in character when something unscripted happens. Floyd notes that audiences often remember those moments best.
A keyboard, guitar and percussion trio led by music director Maggie Laird will accompany the singing, dancing and skating performers. Susan Hanson, former VHS principal, co-directs the play. Floyd invited Hanson back after her retirement.
“I wanted Susan to be able to direct in the new theater space,” Floyd said. “We’ve had a long partnership. This is our ninth show together. It’s been a long and easy collaboration.”
Two other VHS alum will add their creative input to “Xanadu.” Sarah Mercer Ceder will choreograph the dance scenes, and Tanner Montague, home from college for the summer, will design the lighting. Floyd said he likes to include former students to give them more experience working in the theater.
“It’s nice to offer them a short-term summer job.” Floyd said, “But best of all, I love seeing them grow up.”
Performances are Friday, Saturday and Sunday, May 23, 24, 25 and Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, May 29, 30, 31 and June 1. Friday and Saturday performances are at 7:30 p.m. Sunday performances are at 2 p.m.
Tickets for Thursday, May 29, are $10, Friday and Saturday are $15 for adults, $12 for seniors and students. Saturday, May 31 is the Rotary benefit evening honoring graduating drama students. Tickets are $20. Sunday matinees are $12.
Tickets are available at the VHS office, Vashon Bookshop and at the door.