The Harlequin Drama Club from Veterans Memorial High School performed the Broadway musical “Xanadu” at the VMHS Performing Arts Center Thursday night.
Let me preface this review by saying that I am probably one of four people in the world that loves the movie “Xanadu.” It is, admittedly, the best bad movie, which makes it a great movie. Sure, the acting is bad, the storyline is not great and it has unsurprisingly aged poorly. But the soundtrack? Unmatched. No skips, from start to finish; it is pure perfection.
Some background on “Xanadu:” the 1980 movie starring Olivia Newton-John is a story about a down-on-his-luck artist Sonny Malone who meets the daughter of Zeus (yes, the Greek god). The daughter is a muse named Kira, who masquerades as your average, beautiful roller skating woman found in Venice Beach, California. Kira inspires Sonny to open a nightclub/roller rink called Xanadu. But somewhere between the nightclub and barely knowing each other, our protagonists fall in love — an act forbidden by Zeus.
I told you, the storyline is not great.
The movie was a total flop at the box office. But about 26 years later, some brave soul decided it needed to be a Broadway show, and they were right.
The broadway show is more of a parody of the original storyline, really leaning into the cheesiness of it all and poking fun at itself — this is the version we get from the drama club at Veterans Memorial. The music from the Broadway show is generally the same as the film except for a few additional songs and new arrangements. (Important: Electric Light Orchestra, aka ELO, created the music for the film and Broadway versions of “Xanadu,” which is why the soundtrack remains undefeated. These are not your mother’s show tunes.)
Anyway, back to the performance from the Harlequin Drama Club — in short, they killed it.
The cast brilliantly showed off their dancing and singing skills from the get-go with a wild card opening number of “Celebrate” by Kool & The Gang. Immediately, I was impressed by the harmonies and vocal control, considering that is not the easiest song to sing, especially while dancing. In fact, many of the songs from this production are difficult vocally because of the high notes, but the kids were stellar.
Janelle Hinojosa (Kira), Trenton Garcia (Sonny), Margaux Paniagua (Melpomene, Kira’s sister), and Dannia Ochoa (Calliope, Kira’s sister) handle most of the main vocals throughout the performance, and they did so excellently. But Garcia, in my opinion, stole the show. His tone and vibrato had captivated me in such a way that when I went home and listened to the ELO versions of a few songs, I found myself wishing the VMHS drama club had their own recordings I could purchase. (I am actually serious.)
The comedic timing of the cast as a whole was *chef’s kiss.* They had me and for sure the woman sitting in front of me chuckling in our seats at small but cleverly delivered lines. (Shoutout to Paniagua and Michael Gomez, who plays Hermes.)
But Hinojosa, who performs about half the show in roller skates, is my new hero. As someone with zero foot-to-wheel coordination, I salute you, as well as the other cast members who donned skates while on stage.
Although there were some noticeable opening night jitters, a near R-rated wardrobe malfunction the cast quickly recovered from and a tumble on roller skates, the evening was nothing short of delightful. The drama club looked like they were having fun, and I had fun being part of it. I had a smile on my (masked up) face the entire time.