A roller-skating 1980s artist, Greek muses and Pegasus come together to create a night of entertainment with a winning combination of humor, singing and romance.
Thursday evening, Oct. 1, the whimsical musical comedy “Xanadu” played on the stage of the TheatreLab at FGCU, kicking off the season with a 90-minute production that kept audience members entertained throughout.
FGCU senior and lead actor Alana Ferraro plays Kira (Clio), the Greek muse who is sent to California to inspire an artist named Sonny, played by Natale Pirrotta, an Actors’ Equity Association member. Both Ferraro and Pirrotta are stars of the show in every sense of the word.
Ferraro’s perfectly executed accents make her transitions between Southern belle and Australian lassie seamless and impressive. Pirrotta plays the role of spirited Cali surfer dude as convincingly as if one was actually at the Santa Monica Pier.
“Xanadu” is the second collaborative performance of its kind at FGCU. Last year, Mark Danni, TheatreZone’s founding artistic director, approached FGCU with the idea to work together on the production, “Godspell.” His mission is to bring professional actors and FGCU students together.
“It’s a special concession to be able to offer FGCU students the opportunity to work with professional actors, to learn from their work ethic and experience,” Danni said.
Part of that work ethic and experience can be seen in the schedule needed to make a production such as “Xanadu” happen. The 10-person cast, consisting of four professional actors and six FGCU students, had only nine rehearsals in 10 days, totaling 34 hours a week, before opening night.
Freshman Jazmin Edwards, who plays four different roles, said her favorite part of this production is learning from the pros: “They taught me a lot,” she said.
The four professional actors are part of the Actors’ Equity Association, which is a prestigious title to hold. In order to become a part of the association, an actor must perform in a minimum of 50 productions. Each production earns the actor one point, and the title of equity membership candidate. Four of the six FGCU students in the production are EMCs: Ferraro, Deidre Moonan, Lily Anderson and Shannon Carroll.
Commanding the stage with the appearance of a tap-dancing Danny DeVito, Eddie Mekka, a member of the Actors’ Equity Association, brings a strong, lively presence and energy to the stage.
Mekka’s Equity Association counterparts, Laura Needle and Karen Molnar, leave little to be desired; their evil-sister conspiracies offer acts such as the song “Evil Woman” that showcase their experienced musical and acting skills.
FGCU students do a great job keeping up with the pros, though — it is clear that they have learned from this partnership and perform with pride. Ferraro and Pirrotta’s duets get better as their characters grow closer. The familiar “Suddenly” fills the room with energy, while “Don’t Walk Away” and “Suspended in Time” are just as captivating and artfully choreographed.
As a matter of fact, the whole show is skillfully choreographed, which makes it easy to forget that the TheatreLab is such a small space. Watching 10 people successfully navigate roller skates around the stage is almost worth the admission price of $10 itself.
To accompany the choreography, costume design plays an important role in keeping with the real-life and fantasy aspects of the story while taking the audience from California to Mount Olympus.
No actor experienced costume changes more than Peter Lange, an FGCU freshman who plays five different roles. He changes from dresses with heels to roller skates to a centaur costume, offering a constantly changing but consistent element of comedy.
The remaining sirens — sisters of Kira (Clio), played by Moonan, Anderson and Carroll — round the cast out beautifully, each with adept singing voices that, along with the rest of the cast, paired wonderfully with the music provided by the band.
One downside was Ferraro’s microphone cutting out throughout the show. With a voice so elegant, it would have been nice to hear her uninterrupted. The band sounded great, but it could be a bit overpowering at times. Nonetheless, neither was enough to bring the show down.
Lori Lindquist, an audience member, raved that the show was, “hysterical.” Her friend, Maureen Jestes, agreed, saying that it was, “so funny and well done.” Both first attended “Godspell” at the TheatreLab last year and have since looked forward to the collaborative productions between FGCU and TheatreZone.
Tickets for students are $10 and well worth it for an hour and a half of quality entertainment. Remaining shows are scheduled for 8 p.m. Oct. 8 to 10, and 2 and 7:30 p.m. Oct. 11.