With the day temperature soaring into the 90s, topping 100 degrees in many areas, it wasn’t hard for Maine State Music Theatre patrons to imagine Friday evening that they were in Venice Beach, Calif., the setting of “Xanadu,” the musical.

Nor was it out of the realm of possibility that the Greek gods of Mt. Olympus were laughing from above as they manipulated the lives of the mortals gathered below.

The evening was still sultry as theatergoers walked into the “cool” 1980s setting of “Xanadu” inside the theater, where a kitschy utopia with dancing muses, roller skates, an oversized mirror ball and disco music awaited them.

The outlandish throwback musical is based on the 1980 cult classic movie of the same name starring Olivia Newton-John and Gene Kelly. It features a catchy disco score by Jeff Lynne and John Farrar, and a story line from Douglas Carter Beane that brazenly goes for the camp jugular.

Maine State Music Theatre embraced the full campiness of “Xanadu” with gleeful abandon. The proverbial tongue never came out of cheek as the cast performed the thoroughly ridiculous story line about Clio, a Greek muse, who came down from Mt. Olympus in disguise as Kira to inspire a disheartened mortal artist, Sonny.

At the start of the performance, Executive Director Steven C. Peterson described the show as “Xanadu” the movie meets “Saturday Night Live.” His description was right on the mark. The musical is insanely clever and Maine State Music Theatre’s cast is a double threat: zany and extremely talented.

Jenny Lee Stern and Brandon Andrus play the lead roles of Clio/Kira and Sonny. Audiences previously enjoyed Stern last year in “Always Patsy Cline.” She returns to the stage decked out in long blonde hair, pink leg warmers, roller skates and a ludicrous Australian accent. Her over-the-top role is a far cry from Patsy Cline, but one thing remains the same: She’s a dynamite vocalist.

Andrus made his Maine State Music Theatre debut in 2008 as Chad in “All Shook Up.” This time around, he is sporting the 80s fashion faux pas of ultra-short cut-off jeans, a Pink Floyd muscle shirt and striped tube socks. The tacky attire and mindless facial expressions couldn’t hide his salacious good looks Friday. And, when he opened his mouth to sing, his vocals proved as sultry as the evening air.

Clio is one of nine sisters, and Maine State has chosen an entertaining group of performers for the delightfully tawdry roles. Eric D. Jackson, Chuck Ragsdale and Buddy Reeder cranked up the silliness Friday as sisters Polyhymnia, Thalia and Terpsicore. But it was Erin Maguire and Charis Leos as Calliope and Melpomene that really kept the laughs coming with their outrageous antics. The song “Evil Woman,” in particular, was a comic treat.

Another memorable song Friday was “Whenever You’re Away From Me,” which featured vocals from Ed Romanoff as Danny and tap dancing from Reeder as a younger version of Danny. Reeder’s tapping was jaw dropping, precariously performed atop a desk.

“Xanadu” is perhaps the most foolish production theatergoers will have the opportunity to see this summer. It’s a campy farce that revels in poking fun at the artistic and fashion shortcomings of the 1980s. It’s also loads of fun and a good-natured reminder to let loose and not take ourselves too seriously.

April Boyle is a freelance writer from Casco. She can be contacted at:

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