Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Talking with the leads of Arizona Broadway Theatre's XANADU

Sal Pavia and Liz Fallon
photo by Scott Samplin
 by Gil Benbrook

The 1980 film Xanadu may have been a flop at the box office with moviegoers but its soundtrack, which featured the hit songs "Magic," "Suddenly," and "I'm Alive," was a huge seller with its tunes receiving constant radio airplay.  Flash forward to 2007 when the film was re-worked as a Broadway musical spoof with additional tunes from Electric Light Orchestra and songs associated with the film's star Olivia Newton-John.

That show ran for over 500 performances and garnered 4 Tony Award nominations, including one for Best Musical. Arizona Broadway Theatre's production, which runs through September 29th, features Liz Fallon and Sal Pavia as the show's romantic couple, the down on his luck artist named Sonny and the muse Clio, who has come to Earth from Mount Olympus with her sisters to inspire Sonny to create greatness.

Fallon and Pavia were asked some questions about the show, this production and just what it's like having to spend so much time on roller skates during this musical.

For someone who never saw the film what would you tell them the musical adaptation is about?

Sal Pavia - "It's a laugh out loud musical comedy about an artist who falls in love with his muse. There's a healthy combination of ELO music and Olivia Newton John hits which creates magic on stage that you can't help but enjoy. Also I would dare anyone to come see this show and not to laugh, because this cast is hysterical!"

While the stage version isn't an exact reproduction of the film it has the same main characters and the same basic plot. Had you seen the film before being offered this role? If not, did you watch it after you did, and if you did, what were your reactions to it, as it's a very wild and crazy film?

Liz Fallon - "I knew Xanadu was a musical and a movie that had something to do with roller skates, but that’s about it. I watched a bootleg version of the musical which I loved, and then I watched the movie. I was incredibly jetlagged the first time I watched it, so I had to go back and watch it again to make sure it was as ...unique…as I thought the first time around! The movie is odd, but it’s really fun at moments, and I think the musical took the best of the movie and improved upon it."

Sal Pavia - "My life truly started the day after I watch Xanadu the movie, what a trip. I had never seen the film, and probably would have never seen it if I wasn't doing this show. I ended up watching the movie with my wife (who had also never seen it) and my mother in law who remembered watching it when it came out. It was one of the strangest things I've ever seen. So much roller skating, Gene Kelly befriending a complete stranger on the beach, Sonny and Kira turning into cartoon fish - just so many questions."

The show features some of the biggest pop/rock hits of the early 80s as well as Olivia Newton-John's bit hit "Have You Never Been Mellow." I don't believe either of you were alive when the movie came out but how familiar were you both with the songs of ELO and of Newton-John?

Sal Pavia - "I wasn't familiar at all with ELO but have always been a huge fan of Olivia Newton John. I mean how can you not love Sandy Dombrowski! "

Liz Fallon - "I was pretty familiar with Olivia Newton John (thank you, Grease) and I used to listen to some ELO in the car with my Dad as a kid, but that’s about it. Some of the songs in the show I had never heard before."

Sal Pavia's favorite moment in the show
photo by Scott Samplin
What's your favorite moment in the show and why?

Sal Pavia - " 'Suspended in Time', one of the hit songs from the show. Our Director/Choreographer, Courtney Laine Self, and Props Master, Mary Rooney, have created magic onstage when Pegasus (rainbow, glitter wings and all) manifests from thin air. I love getting to watch that song from the wing.

Liz Fallon - "That’s a tough question, but I think I’d have to say the finale. It truly is a big, glittery, disco celebration. The whole cast comes together to skate and boogie, and it showcases so many cast members amazing talents. It’s also a moment where we all get to connect as a team again and wrap the party up with a bang! "

You both have worked at ABT before in lead roles, how does this production compare to your past ABT experiences?

Sal Pavia - "Well I've never spent more time on the ground in a production here at ABT. Roller skating... a lot harder than it looks. Most shows you worry about forgetting a line or a lyric but this time around I'm just stressing about staying on my feet."

Liz Fallon - "Usually I’m focused on singing, acting, and dancing. This time it’s a balancing act of singing, acting, dancing, accents, skating, and ramps haha!"

Liz Fallon showing off her roller skating skills
photo by Scott Samplin

Liz, speaking of that, let's talk about the skating. In the show you spend a considerable amount of time on roller skates. Did you have much experience before using them and what have some of the challenges been having to wear them in this production? 

Liz Fallon - "Ahhh the skates. When I was offered the role, I had asked for a pair of skates to practice in before rehearsals started. I went to Great Skate in Glendale (shout-out to my teacher Bob!) about three times for lessons, rolled around at ABT in between two show days, but that’s about it. I had done one number in a musical on skates before, but it was in a small black box, so it definitely did not prepare me for the roller rink extravaganza that is ABT’s amazing set.

One of the biggest challenges was accepting that my skating wouldn’t be flawless, and that would be ok, even for a Greek goddess. I never would have arrived at that point without our director and choreographer Courtney Laine Self. She took the pressure off, reminded me that I’m not a professional skater, and literally put skates on herself so she could help me navigate certain blocking and the ramps onstage. I felt frustrated at times because I just wanted to focus on the scene, but for safety reasons I had to remind myself to bend my knees and keep an eye on my skating patterns. I’ve definitely taken a few spills, but I’m at a point now where I don’t have to think about the skating much. I think I can say now that most shows my skating looks pretty smooth, and I owe that all to Courtney and her constant encouragement and support."

Why do you love coming back and working at ABT?

Sal Pavia - "the quality of ABT's production and the caliber of their team is unbeatable."

Liz Fallon - "ABT is a family, and I love the people I get to collaborate with on and off the stage. The production quality is always incredible, and I’m proud to be a part of the ABT community."

What do you hope audiences will take away from seeing Xanadu at ABT? 

Liz Fallon - "If you love the movie Xanadu, come see the show! You’ll see some of your favorite movie moments brought to life on stage.

If you hate the movie Xanadu, come see the show! There are new characters, additional story lines, incredible dances, ELO and Olivia Newton John songs, disco balls, roller skates, mythological creatures….what else could you ask for?

I think that Xanadu is the perfect way to say goodbye to summer and begin your fall with some glittery, hilarious, magical comedy, and I promise you’ll leave the theater feeling better than when you walked in. “You have to believe….we are magic!”.  (had to…)"

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