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|Lesbian-led ‘Xanadu’ takes audiences back to 1980|
|by Jim Farmer|
|April 27, 2012 00:00|
Openly lesbian director/comedienne Sherri Sutton has not been idle since returning to Atlanta. Among her projects, Sutton is directing the campy musical “Xanadu,” which opens at Actor’s Express May 10.
Based on the 1980 Olivia Newton John-Gene Kelly film — considered something of a flop, albeit one with a killer soundtrack — “Xanadu” follows the general plotline of the movie. A Greek muse, Clio (Lindsay Lamb Archer) comes down from Mount Olympus to Venice Beach, Calif., to assist Sonny Malone (Jordan Craig), a young man whose dream it is to open a roller disco. He has been contemplating suicide but she helps him to fulfill his ambition, disguising herself as Kira, a roller girl — one with an Australian accent, to boot.
Clio’s green-with-envy sisters Calliope (Jill Hames) and Melpomene (Marcie Millard) back at Mount Olympus watch on deviously. It is a rule that a muse must never fall for a mortal, and they secretly hope Clio will break the rule and be banished.
Besides “Xanadu” being a fun project, Sutton thinks that gay and lesbian audiences will especially take to it. Sutton especially loves the ‘80s theme in it.
“It was certainly my era, my age,” she says. “It was my time. I missed the Studio 54 time but the movie was important to me. The ‘80s wasn’t great art, but it was certainly a time of experimentation in music, drugs and fashion.”
She is happy that there seems to be a revitalization of the ‘80s these days again in pop music and fashion. Sutton feels a lot of people in today’s LGBT community were figuring out who they were during that time.
“If you grew up in the ‘80s this show will make you recall a lot,” she says. “Were you closeted, were you out? For me, I was closeted.”
She was actually married to a man at one point and he turned out to be gay as well.
A number of other LGBT cast and crew members are involved with “Xanadu.” Openly gay Ricardo Aponte is choreographing the show, while Craig Waldrip and Christen Orr play two of the muses. Although she is not gay, Jill Hames is very much a queer favorite in the community, says Sutton.
The music in “Xanadu” is very popular, including “Have You Never Been Mellow,” “Suddenly” and “I’m Alive,” and Sutton hopes audiences will be able to sing along. Although she remembers seeing the movie, Sutton has only seen snippets of the stage musical. Playwright Douglas Carter Beane’s “Xanadu” was a Broadway hit in 2007 and ran for a year. Although it has subsequently toured around the country, this is the first production in Atlanta. On Broadway, openly gay Cheyenne Jackson played Sonny.
It’s an ambitious show and Sutton laughs that this could be the smallest arena where a version of “Xanadu” has ever been staged. Although Clio is on skates virtually the entire time, it’s not until the end of the musical that the entire cast dons skates, she says.
The musical is definitely a parody but the director has worked to bring out the heart and truth and not just make the characters caricatures.
“We’ve worked hard to even make the muses very specific,” she says.
Sutton was born in Savannah and spent many of her adult years in Atlanta. At one time she was the artistic director for the Atlanta International School, where she directed dozens of productions.
Deciding to return to her first love of stand-up comedy, she moved to New York. After relocating to Canada after she “met a girl,” she moved back home last year when that relationship ended.
She has a number of comedy shows in the works, including a remount of her “Don’t Make Fun of Jesus” (her first solo act) and “Taking Out the White Trash!”
Top photo: Director/comedienne Sherri Sutton, who is gay, helms ‘Xanadu’ at Actor’s Express, opening May 10. (via Facebook)
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