As a youngster growing up in the Midwest during the late 20th century, David Leidholdt sensed that he was…different from the rest.
Forced to hide who he really was in the halls of high school; adrift and alone in an age before social networks, David dreamed of an escape to a place far away from the acrid smoke of burning hate; a “stately pleasuredome” illuminated with a thousand points of revolving, reflected light — a Xanadu.
Yes, David Leidholdt was a “Disco Boy in Detroit Rock City.” But here in 2011, as one of the producing partners of ReVision Theatre Company, Disco Boy has become the Disco Man — and Disco Man has decreed that Xanadu the musical herald the coming of a new season of entertainments on the herringboned hardwoods of the Asbury Park boardwalk, with the Carousel House the pleasuredome of choice.
No doubt you’re familiar, at least vaguely, with Xanadu the 1980 film — a notorious box-office Butterball in which Olivia Newton-John essayed the part of Kira, a mythological Muse (daughter of Greek deity Zeus) who comes down to Carter-administration Earth to help a young artist achieve his life’s dream — opening a roller disco.
Suffice to say that the film pretty much arrested any movie momentum the Aussie songbird had generated with Grease — in addition to chasing the director back to the realm of political documentaries, putting the final nail in the celluloid coffin of Gene Kelly, and strangling the leading man’s career cold in the cradle. What the film did have going for it was a bonafide hit score of candylicious pop songs (by Jeff Lynne of Electric Light Orchestra fame) — as well as a small but exponentially snowballing base of fans for whom Xanadu was the stuff of inspiration.
Those songs and that fanbase laid the foundation for the 2007 stage musical, a campy confection that added a bad-Muse subplot and fortified the soundtrack with songs made previously famous by ELO (“Evil Woman,” “Strange Magic”) and ON-J (“Have You Never Been Mellow”). Beginning Thursday, July 7, the show makes its New Jersey premiere inside the rococo roundhouse of the Carousel, with the quad skates hitting the stage of a building that once did duty as an indoor skate park and punk rock hall.
Of course, in Asbury Park the name Xanadu carries echoes of the long-defunct circuit dance club Club Xanadu that occupied the corner of Second and Kingsley for most of the 1980s — and for folks all over NJ, the once-proud name of Kubla Khan‘s summer palace has come back to bite us in the form of that on again/ off again Mall-of-America monstrosity at the side of the Turnpike.
Leidholdt directs an Equity cast that includes Ralph Meitzler (Broadway’s Rock of Ages), Lindsay Nicole Chambers (B’way’s Legally Blond and Hairspray) Alyse Alan Louis (Mamma Mia!), Thay Floyd, Bernard Dotson (Finian’s Rainbow, Ragtime) and Billy Lewis (Spring Awakening national tour). The director found some moments to talk with us during that first, slip-and-slide week of rehearsals; flip the pixelated page for more.