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'Xanadu' Is Camp On Wheels

Fans in front of theater.
Jim Cooper
AP Photo
The musical "Xanadu" tanked on the big screen, but found success on stage.

In 1980, the movie musical "Xanadu" bombed in a big way. But it didn't slink off into dark ignominy.

Instead, it achieved cult status and moved from the silver screen to the Great White Way, becoming a hit musical with the emphasis on cheese and camp, and with much of the infectious original music lifted from the film.

The IWU School of Theater is staging "Xanadu," running April 10-15. Jean Kerr is the director, with Carson Grey as assistant director.

"The film had a cult following that just adored it," said Kerr. "Much in the same way the people like 'Rocky Horror Picture Show.' It's so bad it's good! So a group of energetic artists in New York decided to piece together a schlocky musical. It's a send-up of the movie."

Credit Laura Kennedy / WGLT
Carson Grey, left, and Jean Kerr say get ready to have fun when you join the audience of "Xanadu."

The plot concerns a young painter finding inspiration and love with his muse. Grey, a sophomore at IWU,  has used his work on the show to learn about the creative process.

"I gained a new respect for how many people are involved (in a theatrical production), what it takes to really bring out the creative process and how fun it can be when it comes together well," Grey said.

Some of the scenes in "Xanadu" require the actors to perform on roller skates. Kerr revealed that the performers had to train for this element of the show.

"We partnered with the local skating rink, Skate N Place. Tim and Diane are the owners there and they have been wonderful for us. We took the cast, starting in late January, to the roller rink at least once a week. And Tim and Diane mentored our entire cast to help them feel comfortable on skates. We could not be more grateful for what they did for us."

"Xanadu" is filled with fun, said Kerr, but there's a deeper meaning in the show, as well.

"The humans in the show have lost their way. They don't know who they are anymore. The message of 'Xanadu' is to know who you are, follow your dream and everything will work out OK. And you'll get Xanadu."

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Reporter, content producer and former All Things Considered host, Laura Kennedy is a native of the Midwest who occasionally affects an English accent just for the heck of it. Related to two U.S. presidents, Kennedy appalled her family by going into show business.