I never could figure out why they called that store "Smart & FInal…"

I mean, it’s got all the same crap as a low rent Target. What’s so Smart and Final about that?

Then I checked out XANADU at Starlight this week– now THAT’s Smart and Final. The final show of Swope Park’s 2011 season is about as clever as outdoor musical theater gets. Like I said, Smart and Final.

Douglas Carter Beane writes terrific plays (THE LITTLE DOG LAUGHED at the Unicorn several seasons back is more than proof of that). And his book for the musical of XANADU is a hoot. Instead of slogging through the sentimentality of your usual boy meets girl songfest, XANADU offers up "a children’s musical, but for 40 year-old gay men" (per Beane).

It’s whipsmart send up of the horrible big budget film that set back movie musicals at least a decade (and killed off Gene Kelly)  is chock full of those kinds of zingers— including a few none too blunt barbs at the whole juke box musical genre of which XANADU is an audacious member.

And what a brilliant move to marry this malarkey to some of the 80s most memorably inane lyrics. I don’t think ELO-Traveling Wilbury alum Jeff Lynne and Olivia Newton-John‘s producer and writer John Farrar are going to give Rodgers & Hammerstein a run for their money anytime soon. But in picking such wacky material as "Evil Woman," "Strange Magic" and  "Have You Never Been Mellow," and
plunking it down into a Broadway musical, Beane and his cohorts  (I’m guessing original director Chris Ashley had something to do with it, too) have granted the Messrs Lynne and Farrar their own little corner of the musical comedy firmament.

The Starlight production of XANADU is handsome enough, with strong star turns from Elizabeth Stanley and Darren Ritchie, who both worked on Broadway last season (note: I saw Kerry Butler and Cheyenne Jackson in the original, so it’s tough to be more praiseworthy than that). Starlight honcho Denton Yockey snagged hot Broadway director/choreographer Dan Knechtges to stage the opus. Dan goes from Swope Park back to Broadway, where he’ll oversee the transfer of Doug Beane’s newest Greek funfest  LYSISTRATA JONES from off-Broadway success to what could be the hottest Main Stem show of the season.

Local favorite Kip Niven does a nice job in the Gene Kelly role, and the rest of the ensemble pulled their weight admirably. I thought Anthony Edwards‘ quartet sounded a little thin (didn’t they have an extra synth on Broadway?), but all in all, it was another journeyman-like effort at Starlight.

My only complaint was the size of the venue. XANADU worked on Broadway because it was hip and clever and the 500 or so people that could fit into the Helen Hayes Theatre got it. I would like to have seen Cynthia Levin get her hands on this property and give it the intimate, playful Unicorn production it deserved (watch Steve Eubanks bring it back in a few years). But you’ve got to close your season with something, and Starlight put the final touches on 2011 with this smart little number.

Go see it (the weather is gorgeous out there) before it closes Sunday.

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  1. smartman says:

    Sebastian Wins Out Over Jeezy
    Welcome back, Your dreams were your ticket out. Welcome back, To that same old place that you laughed about. Well the names have all changed since you hung around, But those dreams have remained and they’re turned around. Who’d have thought they’d lead ya (Who’d have thought they’d lead ya) Here where we need ya (Here where we need ya) Yeah we tease him a lot cause we’ve got him on the spot, welcome back, Welcome back, welcome back, welcome back

    To quote Ichiro, Starlight in August is hotter than two rats fucking in a sock. I’ll pass.

  2. Mark E says:

    Play it again, MD
    I’ll take that lyric to mean you missed me.

  3. Food junkie says:

    Smart & Final was actually owned by Mr. Smart and Mr. Final
    The Santa Ana Grocery Company, which was founded in 1912 and mainly supplied feed and grain to local farmers, was sold in 1914 to J.S. “Jim” Smart, a banker from Saginaw, Michigan. Jim was then joined by partner H.D. “Hildane” Final, and the company name changed to Smart & Final Wholesale Grocers.

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