‘Xanadu’ leaps, twirls, skates onto stage at Bainbridge Performing Arts

For one member of the cast at least, love of “Xanadu” runs deep.

Like deeper than skin deep.

“I have a ‘Xanadu’ tattoo,” confessed Matty McCaslin. “That’s how dedicated I am to the ‘Xanadu’ movie.”

The staple island stage star, a familiar face from both Ovation! Performing Arts Northwest and Bainbridge Performing Arts shows, plays Danny (the Gene Kelly character) in the upcoming BPA production of the beloved ’80s cult phenomena, opening Friday, May 4. He is acknowledged by cast and crew alike as the resident expert on the film — but only after defending his original claim to the honor.

“[Production manager] Deirdre [Hadlock] and I, during ‘Priscilla,’ we had to have an all-out fight as to who was the bigger ‘Xanadu’ fan; she or I,” McCaslin said. “Because we both have the album, and then I have the 45 … ELO and Olivia Newton-John are two of my favorites from growing up.”

Not everyone shared McCaslin’s love-at-first-sight feelings of the film, though.

At least, not right away.

Released in 1980, starring Newton-John hot off the success of “Grease,” Michael Beck of “The Warriors” fame, and featuring the last big screen role of film legend Kelly’s career, it was billed as a “romantic musical fantasy film” and was a flop. And not your average flop, either. It flopped so hard as to reportedly be the inspiration for the creation of the infamous bad movie award, the Golden Raspberry.

That’s right. People actually created an award to recognize how bad they thought “Xanadu” was.

The music, however, was another story entirely.

In one of the early instances of fandom-to-the-rescue, lovers of the soundtrack kept the title in the public conscience long enough to sufficiently spread the gospel of “Xanadu.”

From Wikipedia: “Despite the lackluster performance of the film, the soundtrack album became a huge commercial success around the world, and was certified double platinum in the United States. The song ‘Magic’ was a U.S. number one hit for Newton-John, and the title track (by Newton-John and Electric Light Orchestra) reached number one in the United Kingdom and several other countries around the world.”

It seems you just can’t suppress that much glitter and neon for long. And the stage version offers fans of the movie even more of the tunes they love, with a soundtrack that includes additional ELO and Newton-John numbers.

In “Xanadu,” there’s no such thing as too much of a good thing.

“I think it was just the music of the time,” McCaslin said. “The soundtrack saved it … and somehow or other it got back into movie houses, the fashion kind of caught on and I think just because it had so many oddities to it — there was a cartoon in the movie and all these crazy costumes they threw in because they had all this extra footage — people, I think, started watching it just to see why it was so bad.”

But it’s something more than schadenfreude that drives adults to not only re-watch, but eagerly strap on skates and portray the story on stage (let alone get a tattoo).

The timing of BPA’s production couldn’t be better. After all, the 1980s are having a moment. Everywhere you look, our culture is saturated with callbacks to the one of the most distinctive decades in American history. Everything old is truly new again — and it’s fabulous?

“I just think that a lot of people that are our age, or my age right now, were just hitting that moment in their lives in the ’80s, in the early ’80s, when they were becoming middle school-aged, when the world just seemed full of possibilities and people who were just a little bit older were doing music and being in movies,” said director Joanna Hardie. “They were just a little bit older than us and it seemed so exotic, like the whole world was going to open up to us in a few years.”

The primo film fan in residence agreed.

“I think it’s the creative freedom,” McCaslin said. “Back in the ’80s, it was wear your hair a certain way that you want, you’ve got all kinds of colors and short clothes and long clothes kind of all being mishmashed together, all these different colors and designs being mishmashed together — and I think that’s what’s going on now … the ability to sort of bring old stuff and new stuff together and appreciate what used to be and what looks good now. There are really no constraints and conformity.”

The BPA show’s musical director is Elizabeth Faye. It is choreographed by Heather Dawson. Justine Stillwell plays the Newton-John role (Kira), and Nate McVicker plays Sonny.

Rounding out the cast are Jessica Robins, Barbi-Jo Smith, Mariesa Genzale, Joey Chapman, Ania Briggs, Tori Konig, Alex Ung, Max Van Knocken-Witmer, Nicole Billies and Teagan Howlett.

“The performers are just incredible,” Hardie said. “They’ve been working so hard and they’re just flat out talented. We’ve got such good dancers in this show. It’s just been a joy to put together so far.”

This retro, 1980s-inspired glitter explosion will be on stage at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, plus matinées at 3 p.m. Sundays from Friday, May 4 to Sunday, May 20. The run includes a pay-what-you-can preview at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, May 3, and the opening night reception is 6:30 p.m. Friday, May 4.

Tickets, $29 for adults, $24 for seniors, students, youth, military, and teachers, may be purchased online at www.bainbridgeperformingarts.org, by phone at 206-842-8569, or in person at BPA (200 Madison Ave. North).

BPA box office hours are 1 to 4 p.m. Wednesday through Friday, and one hour prior to each performance.

Photo courtesy of Bainbridge Performing Arts | The staff of Bainbridge Performing Arts’ “Xanadu,” directed by Joan

Photo courtesy of Bainbridge Performing Arts | The staff of Bainbridge Performing Arts’ “Xanadu,” directed by Joan