A funny musical that came from a cinematic flop

Union City High School to perform ‘Xanadu’

Fine and performing arts students from Union City High School will perform the musical Xanadu on Saturday April 16 at 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. The shows are 90 minutes each, with no intermission.
Xanadu is about an aspiring artist Sonny Malone, played by senior Bryan Cunat, living in Venice, Calif. who questions his ability as an artist. As he draws seven Greek muses on a wall and doubts his work, the muses come to life to inspire him.
The story became a 1980 movie starring Olivia Newton-John and Gene Kelly that flopped at the box office. However, the soundtrack by Newton-John and ELO was successful, and ultimately, the story and music gained new life in 2007 as a humorous Broadway musical that received positive reviews. It closed in 2008 but is being performed at high schools.
“The movie flopped,” said the UCHS theatre teacher and director of the play Anthony Gusevich. But the subsequent Broadway musical actually made fun of over-the-top features of the movie, like the Australian accent of Olivia Newton-John or the lack of a plot.
“They took everything that made the movie bad, and satir[ized] it,” Gusevich said.

“I want people to know to never give up, because inspiration is around the corner.” – UCHS senior Stephanie Berry
The musical also added a plot twist with two villains, Ynoa and Aguiluz, who are jealous of the muse Clio, in order to give more depth to the musical.
Last year Gusevich put on a show called In the Heights which had a bigger cast and a “heavier,” more serious plot, compared to this year’s small cast and comedy of Xanadu.
Gusevich and Assistant director Paulina Stricker have been preparing the cast to sing, dance, and perform on roller skates, as in the original movie.
Cast members said working on both singing, dancing, and rollerblading has been a fun challenge.
At a recent rehearsal, senior Stephanie Berry said, “I want people to know to never give up, because inspiration is around the corner, and if you give up there’s no succeeding, but if you try there’s a way.”
Gusevich also assigned the cast to intensively research each character and Greek muse to find “secrets” or the Greek mythology about their characters.
Seven muses appear in the play. The seven muses are daughters of Zeus: Clio played by senior Mariajesus Valdes, Melpomene played by senior Evielle Aguiluz, Calliope played by senior Leslie Ynoa, Erato played by Berry, Thalia played by senior Christian Roach, Euterpe played by freshman Sabrina Perez, and Terpsichore played by junior Mario Amaro.
“The intensive research is to get a grasp of who they are, and they get to see secrets about themselves, and that drives them into their character more,” said Gusevich.
It’s a tradition for the cast to head for the Coach House after the final performance, because most of the cast are seniors who will be leaving after the school year ends.
Valdes said, “I’m looking forward to after the show. We go to the Coach House and have a family gathering to reveal our deepest ‘secrets’ in the characters and say goodbye to the seniors.”
Berry said she will be applying for the acting program at Montclair University, and Valdes said she may be going to Desales University for musical theatre.
The last two performances are Saturday April 16 at 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. at Union City High School, 2500 John F. Kennedy Blvd, Union City. Tickets are available at http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/2518536 for $7. Tickets can also be purchased at the door on each day of the event for $10 and $5 for students.

Samantha Meyers can be reached at samantham@hudsonreporter.com .

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