Rachel Rockwell directs Gina Milo (right,) who plays the role of Kira in “Xanadu,” during a recent rehearsal at Drury Lane Theater in Oakbrook Terrace. | Ryan Pagelow~ Sun-Times Media
♦ Sept. 6-Oct. 29
♦ Drury Lane Theatre,100 Drury Lane, Oakbrook Terrace
♦ Tickets, $35-$46
♦ (630) 530-0111;
You’ve got to admire the courage of an actor who takes on the role of a Greek muse sent from Mt. Olympus to Venice Beach, Calif., to inspire a struggling artist.
Oh, did we mention, the roller skates?
Gina Milo plays Clio/Kira in Drury Lane Theatre’s production of the roller musical, “Xanadu,” a loving tribute to the much-mocked, cult favorite 1980 film starring Olivia Newton-John and Gene Kelly.
“I usually play sidekicks because I’m just a quirky girl,” Milo said. “It’s really fun to have the kind of show where a quirky gal like myself gets to be the lead. And, it’s Olivia Newton-John. What little girl doesn’t want to grow up and be Olivia Newton-John after the movie ‘Grease’? Getting to pretend to be her is kind of a childhood fantasy dream come true.”
Although Milo is enamored of Newton-John, she admitted to not being a fan of the film version of “Xanadu,” which she only saw after accepting the role. She wondered, “What did I just agree to?”
But her opinion changed after reading the script. “It lovingly pokes fun,” Milo said. “It definitely knows how silly the movie is.”
Director and choreographer Rachel Rockwell was drawn to the show’s sense of fun. “I never get to do anything that is as completely joyful and fun and silly as this,” she said. “It’s a total release.
“I love the music,” the director continued. “I grew up listening to this music.” The show’s pop song list includes “All Over the World” and “Have You Never Been Mellow?”
Milo initially wondered how she would relate to her character, but that worry soon dissipated when she realized that even though Kira is a demigod, she has human desires.
“What I love about the story of Kira is that she comes to Venice Beach thinking she’s here to inspire and to do the job that she’s so great at, but she’s the one who ends up getting inspired. And she’s the one who ends up learning and growing,” Milo said. “I love her journey.”
The skating was something else, however, for the actress.
“I’ve been skating around in a circle since I was 5,” Milo said. “But doing it on a stage and having to do tricks and turns — that I was not prepared to do it. It’s definitely a challenge.”
Fortunately, Rockwell previously choreographed a skating number for a production of “Dames at Sea” that she staged out of town, and has been in shows where she skated.
Rockwell said: “I’m so fortunate because my associate choreographer, Amber Mak, is a world-class figure skater.”
The director has equal praise for Milo. “She has an incredible innate comedic sense and she’s so instantly likeable,” Rockwell said. “She’s got an incredible voice. Olivia, look out.”
Myrna Petlicki is a local free-lance writer.