DE PERE, Wis. (WFRV) – Collage = From many, one.

An example is the musical “Xanadu.”

Pieced together are time travel, Greek gods, art, the concept of inspiration, jokes, dance derring-do, ’80s pop hits, homages to the ’40s, mythology, love/romance, admiration of a superstar and bales of spoofing.

For the Birder Players production running to Sept. 17 in the company’s Broadway Theatre, add a whole lot of flashy performances and visual pop.

Two elements immediately engage.

One. A mural of ancient Grecian figures in a pose is projected on the rear of the performance area. A young artist is so frustrated that he has not captured what he envisioned in his creation of the Muses that he plans suicide. The projection transforms into real human forms, today. The leading Muse steps into the young artist’s life, leading him away from death and to an inspired life. Embedded in the sequence is the grist of musical theater – song/story magic, with “(You Must Belief in) Magic” being the catalyst song.

Two. The performer playing Kira, the leading Muse, is fascinating to watch and hear. Erin Janssen becomes a persona who is playful, sweet, loving, clever and expressive, and her voice is alluring with flowing warmth. In texture, her singing is not unlike that of Olivia Newton-John, the superstar for whom the role was built. Erin Janssen also shifts through accents, including Australian of Olivia Newton-John.

As Sonny Malone, the young artist, Lucas Brunette also has a smooth vocal quality suited for Sonny’s songs of angst and love.

The story in 25 words: A demigod from mythology arrives in 1980 and falls in love with a mortal, endangering her to doom by order of her father, mighty Zeus.

That’s entertainment? Yes.

Creators Douglas Carter Beane, Jeff Lynne and John Farrar provide the fun fodder for director Kirt Graves, music director Lucas Jordan, choreographer Anna Allen and other local muses in the company to pour energy, humor and action all over the stage.

This and that:

+ Kathryn Lockwood and Bucky Marklein spice the roles of the baddies who are determined to sell Kira up river … in the form of song and characterization shenanigans.

+ Choreographer Anna Allen doubles as assorted characters, often teaming in dance with Michael Jacobs to pull off tricky lifts. The two have nerve of steel. Anna Allen’s choreography has so many people doing so many slick moves and looking like they’re having fun doing it.

+ Mark A. Jackson is particularly forceful with one of his characters, the particularly forceful Zeus, with a deep voice and a big presence.

+ The story’s time shifting is head spinning, sometimes with shifts within the main shift.

+ One running joke is Sonny teases name-dropping involving the 1940s. He completely does not understand what people might be talking about. Perhaps some people might not understand the name drops in “Xanadu,” being that it is based on a film that’s 42 years old.

+ Sometimes the creators come up with inside teases. One is the line, “We are the Muses of inspiration. What are we doing in a theater?”

+ In the story, an old theater is revitalized. Birder Players’ production takes place in a revitalized theater for real.

+ The company is attuned to the show’s vitality, sense of rascality and for-the-adventure feel of the whole project.

+ Wednesday’s opening night performance received a rousing standing ovation.


Running time: One hour, 55 minutes

Remaining performances: 7:30 p.m. Sept, 9; 4 p.m. Sept. 10; 7:30 p.m. Sept. 14, 15, 16; and 2 p.m. Sept. 17


Creative: Book – Douglas Carter Beane; music and lyrics – Jeff Lynne, John Farrar; producer – Alicia Birder; director – Kirt Graves; assistant director – Bucky Marklein; music director – Lucas Jordan; choreographer – Anna Allen; lighting design – Jeffery James Frelich, Jr.; projection design – Andrew Schmitz; sound design – Samuel Sendenquist; stage manager – Frank Tower; assistant stage manager, properties – Jensen MacKenzie; set design – Warren Elliott; scenic artist – Susan Elliott, August Jennings; hair design – Daniel Pagel; wardrobe coordinator/designer – Jolee Jackson

Cast (in order of appearance)

Sonny Malone – Lucas Brunette

Kira (Clio) – Erin Janssen

Melpomene, Medusa – Katheryn Lockwood

Thalia, Eros – Ritter Leeph

Minotaur, Erato, Hermes, The Tubes, Siren – Michael Jacobs

Terpischore, Young Danny – Anna Allen

Eurterpe, Hera, Andrews Sister, Siren – Megan Navarrette

Urania, Aphrodite, Siren – Madeline Schneider

Polyhmnia, Thetis, Andrews Sister, Siren – Brianna Zawada

Calliope, Cyclops – Bucky Marklein

Danny Maguire, Zeus – Mark Jackson


Songs (recorded instrumental soundtrack)

Act I

“I’m Alive” – Muses

“Magic” – Kira, Muses, Sonny

“Evil Woman” – Melpomene, Calliope, Sirens

“Suddenly” – Sonny, Kira

“Whenever You’re Away from Me” – Danny, Kira

“Dancin’” – Andrews Sisters, Tubes, Danny, Sonny

“Strange Magic” – Melpomene, Calliope, Kira, Sonny, Eros, Euterpe

“All Over the World” – Company

“Don’t Walk Away” – Sonny, Four Muses, Danny, Melpomene, Calliope, Company

Act II

“Fool” – Kira, Melpomene, Calliope, Sonny, Muses

“The Fall” – Sonny, Muses

“Suspended in Time” – Kira, Sonny, Muses

“Have You Never Been Mellow” – Thetis, Aphrodite, Kira, Cyclops, Medusa, Centaur

“Xanadu” – Company

“Bows” – Company


NEXT: “Elf” musical, Dec. 1-3, 7, 11, 13-17.

THE VENUE: Broadway Theatre is located at 123 St. Broadway on the east side of the Fox River in De Pere. Essentially a 3,000-square-foot “black box” theater, the rectangular performance space is adjusted to the needs of a specific production. For “Xanadu,” seating is divided into three sections on risers – one large and facing the long leg of performance space head on, and two of 12 seats each on the wings. The space includes a high, arcing ceiling consisting primarily of its original patterned tin, painted white, and a laminate dark brown floor in the audience area. Performances spill along the various levels onto the main level of the seating area. Action often is up close and personal. The theater is the home for performances and rehearsals of the youth Birder Studio of Performing Arts and adult Birder Players, and it is another option for other endeavors of entertainment.