We are in 'Xanadu,' and the stars of this musical are out of this world

CELEBRITY NEWS

August 18, 2008|By LIZ SMITH | LIZ SMITH,Tribune Media Services

This is what I know. When you ask to go backstage to congratulate any or all of the cast members in the musical Xanadu, you are advised that they dress and undress together in a very small space and there's no room for anyone to "visit" with them.

So last week, when some of the women of the Wowowow Web site wanted to greet their member, Whoopi Goldberg, after the show, we and our men folk had to stand near the stage, still in the audience, after the crowd filed out. In time, the cast of Xanadu trooped out to mix and mingle with us. There was the sexy all-American leading man, Cheyenne Jackson, who declared, "Well, tonight was sure boys' night out" in this theater. "Oh, hell," said Cheyenne, who'd had his mighty legs in short shorts on display all evening, now covered up: "Every night here seems to be boys' night out!"

The mighty Mary Testa, who blows everyone else off the stage as the "evil" Melpomene, appeared in our midst as sweet as pie. She makes a formidable "pal" onstage for our Whoopi, who doesn't go about on roller skates, as I'd thought, but underplays dramatically with Testa as another evil genius, Calliope. (Their ridiculous interplay with some in the audience who sit onstage is just the funniest.) I adored the leading lady, Kerry Butler. This blond minx of a muse called Clio, tiny as she is, remains the staunch thread that holds this entire "plot" together.

The story is about Greek gods coming down to mix with mortals in Venice, Calif. - so, shades of the genius Cole Porter, who often used the same idea. While Xanadu's plot and music don't come up to the classic Cole, there is a distinct similarity here to Porter's "Out of This World."

Cheyenne plays the manly '80s-era hippie mortal who doesn't "get" pop culture references about such bygone stars as Errol Flynn or mentions of vaudeville and other arcane matters.

I was hoping to see Tony Roberts, who segues between playing Zeus and a hard-driving old businessman, but he must have escaped through another exit. He is merely marvelous dancing, singing and bopping around, playing in emphatic contrast to his youthful, whizzing, "Gee whiz"-type, roller-skating cast members.

By now, we had added the grand Oscar-winning actor Joel Grey to our party. He'd been in the audience to see Whoopi. When Ms. Goldberg appeared, she said she was soaking wet from her exertions and was raring to get out and get home. But she stopped to kiss us and show us some new shoes she had discovered. We all burst into applause for this giant, big-hearted star before she went on her way to raging crowds awaiting her at the stage door on 44th Street.

What a night! Xanadu is the musical on Broadway you want to go see if you simply want to have the time of your life.

Farewell, Brillstein

Hollywood said so long last week to the formidable Bernie Brillstein, agent, manager, coddler and generator of talent. He was the last of his kind, maybe the first! I'll never forget meeting this genial guy, dancing the night away with him in Studio 54. After, we remained tight. I never had a problem he didn't try to solve for me. Surely will miss this man who helped make the Muppets, John Belushi and Gilda Radner possible.

Light reading, heavy-lifting

You saw the weightlifter at the Olympics who dislocated his elbow? That's how I felt trying to lift Vogue for September. (So what is all this about there being less advertising in mags?)

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