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July 13, 2007

TT: Summer camp

You win some, you lose some. In today's Wall Street Journal drama column I report on Xanadu and Fables de La Fontaine:

Prior to this week my list of contenders for the title of Worst Musical I've Ever Reviewed consisted of "In My Life," "Lestat," "Lennon," "The Times They Are A-Changin'" and "Ring of Fire," in that order.

Then came "Xanadu."

What's so uniquely awful about this stage version of the 1980 flop that put an end to Olivia Newton-John's Hollywood career? Start with the fact that it's an elephantine spoof of a quarter-century-old movie so terrible that few people saw it and fewer still remember it. That strikes me as a pretty good working definition of pointlessness, not to mention a near-infallible recipe for boredom. Why bother making such elaborate fun of a forgotten film about a dopey freelance artist (Cheyenne Jackson) who is visited by a Greek muse (Kerry Butler) who inspires him to open a roller disco? Pure spoofery cloys quickly even when its target is familiar, and "Xanadu" has nothing else to offer....

The curtain went up an hour late on "Fables de La Fontaine," the first production of Lincoln Center Festival 2007. (A malfunctioning light board was to blame.) Fortunately, the show was more than worth the wait. Robert Wilson, whose slow-motion surrealism put him on the avant-garde map in the '70s, has collaborated with the Comédie-Française, Europe's oldest theater company, on a pantomime-based French-language version of 19 of Jean de La Fontaine's 17th-century animal fables. The result is a work of uncanny beauty and compulsion, one of the most entrancing spectacles ever to be presented on a New York stage....

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Posted July 13, 2007 12:00 AM

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