San Jose Retro Dome’s “Xanadu” is Campy, Classy, and Terrific Fun Standing Ovation for “Stand By Your Man – the Tammy Wynette Story” S F Playhouse "Wirehead" is Devilishly Clever "The Final Scene" Well Worth a Peek

This outrageous flashback musical bursts with mirrored disco balls, roller skates, Greek gods, and songs that make you smile.  In 1980 the movie paired “Grease” pop-singer Olivia Newton-John with Michael Beck and classic dancer/singer Gene Kelly, adding pulse-pounding music of the Tubes, ELO, and more.  Written by Douglas Carter Beane with music by Jeff Lynne and John Farrar, “Xanadu” came to the Broadway stage and won an Outer Critics’ Circle Award for “Best New Musical” in 2008.  It’s a real treat to find that San Jose’s Retro Dome fills their hit production with high energy performers, colorful and creative costumes, perfect casting, and easygoing voices.  The live onstage band was an added treat.  Forget Broadway, come to San Jose.  This show includes several members of the prestigious Actors’ Equity Association, so you know you’re in for top-notch entertainment.

The plot is simple:  Talented but broke artist Sonny, perfectly cast in good-looking Adam Barry, is in despair and wants to end it all.  Kira, an observant young goddess, takes pity on him and begs her goddess family to allow her to inspire Sonny’s mind as his earthly Muse.  Sarah Aili plays the part of the Muse with comic timing and a singing voice that matches her heavenly looks.  The plot thickens as two of her jealous sister goddesses scheme to eliminate her, if they can only trap her into falling in love with the human.  These two sisters, vamped to absolute perfection by Shannon Guggenheim and Hilary Little, constantly crack up the audience with their facial expressions as wicked songstresses.  Their high-voltage song “Evil Woman” was a big favorite. 

Fortunately, not all of the goddess family wishes harm to Kira.  The supportive sisters include tall and talented Kate McCormick, charming and versatile Lizzie O’Hara, and comic Brian Conway as the hilarious “sister” who seems a bit “off”.  Hector Quintana, playing another Muse, was ill for the performance I reviewed, but there was neither a beat missed nor a note dropped by this talented ensemble.   

There always has to be a plot twist, preferably one of evil and redemption.  In this show it’s the greedy developer who turns into a philanthropist, a role relished by Stephen Guggenheim as he does a bit of the two-step with gorgeous Aili and sings their duet “Whenever You’re Away From Me.”  Oh, and Guggenheim also shows up as the god Zeus in a later scene.  No wonder he’s smiling.

This family-friendly show brings out the good times with its quick and clever dialog and onstage antics.  Some double-entendres appropriately went over the youngsters’ heads, yet all ages were clapping along with the joyful songs.  When one scene had all the gods and goddesses assembled in white tunics and gold crowns, Sonny asks “What is this, some kind of spa?” The little girl behind me laughed as hard as I did.   It’s entertainment at its campy best.

Produced and directed by Scott Evan Guggenheim, this show is now playing at The Retro Dome at 1694 Saratoga Avenue, San Jose, near the Westgate Mall.  Tickets at or (418) 404-7711.     

Intimate Cinnabar Theater on top of the hill in Petaluma opened their newest musical to thunderous applause this weekend.  Amusing and fact-based, "Stand By Your Man" weaves the history of how a Mississippi hillbilly became American’s first lady of country music.  Written by Mark St. Germain, the show features powerhouse singer Shannon Rider Urquhart in the title role, and this gal can act as well as she sings. 

Talent abounds with the six musicians onstage, including Jim Peterson, Dave Zirbel, Paul Urquhart, Stuart Rabinowitsh, Tim Sarter, and Chris Rovetti.  They riff through 26 of Wynette’s hits, including Stand By Your Man, D-I-V-O-R-C-E and Til I Can Make It On My Own.  Several of these fine-looking men intermittently put down their instruments to take turns in a role or two, including Peterson who beautifully sings and enacts country legend George Jones.

The lines are funny and true, particularly when Tammy says “I’m not old, I’m like my car.  I’ve got some good years left.”  George Jones cracks up the audience with “I’m part of the “in” crowd:  intense, indestructible, and intoxicated.” 

All the actors in this large cast have fun onstage, matching their roles to their looks and mannerisms, particularly Dave Zirbel as Burt Reynolds and Mollie Boice as Tammy’s mother Meemaw.  Boice even takes a solid turn at the microphone to show what momma can do.  Back-up vocals and sweet harmonies are compliments of Audrey Tatum and Chiara Sarter, who effortlessly handle multiple roles, with Fiona Sarter as Gwen.  Austin Humble and John Craven round out the cast, skillfully playing so many different characters it’s a wonder they don’t get confused.   Kudos go to director Elizabeth Craven for making “Stand By Your Man” such a stand up winner.

Playing Friday and Saturday evenings and Sunday matinees now through April 10th with tickets $35 general/$32 seniors/$25 under 30 at (707) 763-8920 or  Cinnabar Theater is at 3333 Petaluma Blvd. North, across from Corona Road.  This show is teen-friendly.

Who would have known that such an innovative, imaginative play lurks in a tiny theater behind this bleak Sutter Street doorway?  Climb the stairs, grab a glass, and hold on to your seat...the next 98 minutes will be a wild ride indeed.

The plot:  Imagine a world in the not-so-distant future where money and influence could get you to the top of the list for a brain enhancing procedure.  You'd become brilliant, and leave your friends and your competition far behind.  Would you do it?  How far can this go?  What will the world become as more and more wired-up geniuses sprout amongst the remaining mere morons?

This startlingly clever play, written by Benjamin/Brown and admirably directed by Susi Damilano, provokes thought and lots of laughter.  The set is a visual stunner designed by Bill English and lit by Jon Retsky.  Act I opens with Scott Coopwood as the radio talk show host who blasts listeners as he broadcasts from a booth on high.  Craig Marker and Gabriel Marin are hilarious as office co-workers caught in the crossfire of their girlfriends and competition for business.  Add Cole Alexander Smith to the mix as the office dolt who gets "wired" and capitalizes on his new brainpower to leapfrog over his office buddies.  We see the trouble brewing.

The girlfriends, perfectly cast in Lauren Grace and Madeline H. D. Brown, have not a clue what the guys are up to.  Their facial gestures and body language provide mirthful counterpoint to their boyfriends' stumbling. 

Each of the six actors in the company are extraordinarily talented and well-cast.  Four are members of the Actors' Equity Association, and the remaining two certainly have the strong acting chops to join them.   This darkly amusing show will stick with you, provocatively.  Playing Tuesdays through Saturdays, including Saturday matinees, now through April 23rd at S. F. Playhouse, 588 Sutter Street, San Francisco.  Tickets are $30-$50 at (415) 677-9596 or  Not suited for children.
This world-premier comedy by Sonoma County playwright Gene Abravaya gives a glimpse of what goes on behind the television cameras when a soap opera episode goes awry.  Ratings are down so the network executives are "writing out" the leading lady, and this diva doesn't like it one bit.  The humor is madcap, the audience laughs out loud, and it's a challenge for the actors to keep from stepping on the next funny line.  Abravaya's years of working on the set of the long-running soap opera "As The World Turns" brings a spark of recognition to the roles he created for the cast, crew, and studio execs.  Along with the humor, he's brought in the pressure and frustrations that bubble up behind the scenes.  The characters have their own scripts they play out, from aggressive to embarrassed to clueless.  This ensemble cast works well together; they obviously enjoy their quirky roles.

"The Final Scene" opens as filming begins on a living room stage set.  There are lights, cameras, and plenty of action spilling out into the audience, adding to the fun.  This show-within-a-show features the considerable talents of Peter Downey, Julia Hoff, Kendall Carroll, Matthew T. Witthaus, Tice Allison, Freddie Lambert, Jennifer Weil, Paul Huberty, Rebekah Patti, and Eric Thompson in a dual role with Jacquelyn Wells as lead understudy.  Tim Kniffin directs this delightful show playing Friday and Saturday evenings and Sunday matinees, with an additional evening on Thursday, March 24th.  The show runs through March 27th at the 6th Street Playhouse's comfortable G.K. Hardt Theater.  Tickets are $15 to $32 at (707) 523-4185 or at