Annapolis native Bosley-Reynolds shines in Toby's 'Xanadu'

Stage take on musical film flop is a winner

  • Toby's courtesy: Xanadu photo showing muses with Heather Marie Beck (center in pink costume)
Toby's courtesy: Xanadu photo showing muses with Heather… (Kirstine Christiansen,…)
July 15, 2011|By Mary Johnson, Special to The Baltimore Sun

Fans of Annapolis native and longtime local leading man David Bosley-Reynolds can catch his Olympian performance as Zeus along with his dual role as solid businessman Danny Maguire in Toby's Baltimore Dinner Theatre's area premiere of "Xanadu."

Always charismatic — beginning with the Chesapeake Music Hall, the Annapolis dinner theater that closed in 2004 — Bosley-Reynolds' memorable performances included his nuanced characterization of Jud in "Oklahoma," his Cowardly Lion in "The Wizard of Oz," his Tevye in "Fiddler on the Roof" and his Fred Graham in "Kiss Me Kate" — the final Music Hall performance.

Bosley-Reynolds was picked by the creator/director of "Annie" to star as Daddy Warbucks in the national touring company. Later he played Warbucks in his first show at Toby's Columbia Dinner Theatre, where he has since reprised many of his other starring roles. It was at Toby's in 2007 that Bosley-Reynolds was voted "Broadway World's Actor of the Year."

Now a familiar Toby's regular, Bosley-Reynolds lends his usual warmth and substance to "Xanadu" in his portrayal of Danny (the Gene Kelly film role), while investing his Zeus with Shakespearean grandeur. His singing of "Whenever You're Away From Me" is a major highlight of the show. My only personal reservation is the missed skating turn by Bosley-Reynolds, whom I remember as a skilled skater who should have glided through the glitzy final "Xanadu" number.

"Xanadu" became a Tony-nominated 2007 hit musical, was inspired by the 1980 movie of the same name that ranked as one of that year's worst movies. Despite a cast headed by Kelly and Olivia Newton-John, the film is sometimes credited with hastening the demise of the once-golden Hollywood musical genre.

The stage musical adapted by Douglas Carter Beane spoofs the movie plot, mixing Greek muses with California mortals of the 1980s, but retains the pleasant upbeat score by Jeff Lynne and John Farrar, which won fans initially and continues to gain admirers.

The story is set in Venice, Calif., where struggling artist Sonny Malone is encouraged to follow his dream by an elusive Australian roller-skating blonde named Clio who is actually a visiting muse from Mount Olympus. Sonny, who has been struggling to complete an ad illustration for a client, notices Clio's resemblance to the lovely girl who dominates his emerging ad creation.

Clio also strongly resembles Kira, the 1940s muse and long-lost love of middle-age real estate tycoon Danny Maguire. Coincidences multiply as Clio inspires Sonny to convert an abandoned building that we discover is owned by Danny. Together, Danny and Sonny agree to turn this building that had been scheduled for demolition into a 1980s roller disco palace.

Somehow, this fantasy mixing Greek gods and muses with the carefree roller-skating Venice Beach crowd of the disco era works better in Toby's production than it did in the film version, where the 1940s American pop culture associated with Kelly, the movie dancer, was oddly juxtaposed with the 1980s disco scene. The campy, joke-filled stage version at Toby's adds up to a thoroughly entertaining production.

This can be attributed largely to the savvy casting of talented and charming Heather Marie Beck — who adopts a believable Australian Newton-John accent as transplanted muse Clio — and to the equally skilled casting of Greg Twomey as struggling artist Sonny, who immediately is captivated by Clio. Beck and Twomey become beautifully matched innocent opposites who are also well matched vocally, their perfectly blended voices magical in their first duet, "Magic," and becoming more enchanting later in "Suddenly" — two of the score's top tunes.

The three main characters get strong support from Clio's sister muses Calliope (Tierra Strickland) and Melpomene (Maria Egler), descending from Olympus to harass Clio and other inhabitants of mythical 1980s Southern California. Together, Strickland and Egler create high comic hysteria in their "Evil Woman" duet. Equally noteworthy is David Gregory, a reliable Toby's player who creates a masterly portrayal of Terpsichore along with a bevy of other memorable mischief makers.

Some fantastic roller skating contributes mightily to the success of this production, with a special nod to Gregory in the lavish "Xanadu" finale, and earlier to Beck's skilled skating, including a segment in which she wears only a single skate.

Director Daniel McDonald has created a joyous, thoroughly entertaining production that is rapidly paced and reflects his affection for the Broadway show.

Choreographer Laurie Newton deserves high marks for revitalizing disco excitement, and costume designer Janine Sunday adds her own excitement in the flashy costumes that enliven the final roller disco number.

Musical Director Cedric Lyles and his live on-stage orchestra bring intensity and brightness to the score.

Toby's "Xanadu" is a winner not likely to be seen anytime soon on any nearby stage. From Severna Park, the trip to Toby's Downtown Dinner Theatre at the Best Western Hotel on O'Donnell Street at the Baltimore Travel Plaza is little more than a half-hour drive on Interstate 895.

"Xanadu" runs at Toby's through Aug. 28. For schedule information and reservations, go to or call 410-649-1660.

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