The movie musical Xanadu was released on August 8, 1980. It stars Olivia Newton-John, Gene Kelly, and Michael Beck. It was directed by Robert Greenwald and produced by Lawrence Gordon and Joel Silver. The script was written by Richard Christian Danus and Marc Reid Rubel. The soundtrack is by the Electric Light Orchestra and Olivia Newton-John, featuring duets with Gene Kelly, Cliff Richard, and rock band the Tubes. The songs were written by Jeff Lynne and John Farrar. The dance numbers were choreographed by Kenny Ortega and Jerry Trent, and there are appearances by dancers Sandahl Bergman, Miranda Garrison, Adolfo "Shabba-Doo" Quinones, and Darcel Wynne. The movie also features an animation sequence by former Disney animator Don Bluth.
Xanadu tells the story of Sonny Malone (Michael Beck), a frustrated artist who paints larger versions of album covers for a living. Although it is not what he wants to do with his life, he can't seem to break out on his own as an artist, as he is not inspired. Kira (Olivia Newton-John) is a muse who comes down to earth to inspire Sonny to achieve his dreams. Sonny then meets Danny McGuire (Gene Kelly), a musician and entrepreneur who Kira inspired back in 1945. Danny tries to convince Sonny to help him look for and build a nightclub, which is one of Danny's dreams. When Sonny has doubts about helping Danny, Kira convinces him that maybe Danny's dream is big enough for the both of them, and the building for the nightclub is found. Along the way, Kira and Sonny fall in love, and although this is forbidden for a muse, her father, Zeus, allows her to help Sonny open the nightclub, and thus Xanadu is born.
Although it was generally panned by critics and initially considered a flop when it first came out, Xanadu has gained a cult following over the years and continues to be screened regularly in cities all across America and worldwide. Many people love and appreciate it for what it is: a lighthearted, campy, fun musical about achieving your dreams, with great music and dance numbers and a beautiful spirit.
Below is a timeline of significant events in Xanadu history.
September 18, 1979: Filming of Xanadu begins in Los Angeles, California. Filming locations include the Venice boardwalk (the muse mural), Palisades Park in Santa Monica (the scene where Kira first kisses Sonny), Malibu Pier (where Sonny falls into the water), the Hollywood Bowl (where Kira and Sonny drink champagne), Fiorucci's in Beverly Hills ("All Over the World" scene), Hollywood General Studios (the inside of Xanadu), and the Pan-Pacific Auditorium (the outside of Xanadu).
April 14, 1980: Hollywood Nights, an Olivia Newton-John television special, airs after the 1980 Oscar telecast. Intended partly as publicity for the upcoming release of Xanadu, it features duets with Cliff Richard ("Suddenly") and Gene Kelly ("Makin' Movies").
June, 1980: The songs "Magic," "I'm Alive," and "Xanadu" are released as singles. The soundtrack is released in July, and eventually yields even more hits: "Suddenly," "All Over the World," "Don't Walk Away," and "Suspended in Time."
July 25, 1980: Olivia appears as guest host on The Midnight Special. Several songs from the movie are performed, including "Dancin'," where she is seen in triplicate performing with the Tubes. She also performs "Suddenly" with Cliff Richard, "Suspended in Time," and "Magic."
August, 1980: Making Xanadu, a 30-minute television special about the making of the movie, is aired about a week before the movie is released.
August 2, 1980: The song "Magic" begins a four-week run at Number One on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.
August 8, 1980: Xanadu is released in theaters in the United States.
May 26, 1984: Xanadu is broadcast for the first time on network television (CBS).
May 30, 1989: The building used for the outdoor shots of Xanadu, the Pan-Pacific Auditorium, burns down.
1989: The Xanadu soundtrack is first released on CD in Australia.
February 2, 1996: The legendary Gene Kelly passes away.
Sept. 8, 1998: The soundtrack is released on CD in the United States.
July 20, 1999: The DVD is released in the United States.
July 27, 2000: A smaller version of the Pan-Pacific Auditorium is rebuilt on the same location, completed in April 2002. It is used as a recreational facility.
Summer 2000: Director Annie Dorsen debuts Xanadu Live!, a staged version of the movie, at the 2000 Williamstown Theater Festival.
October 11, 2001: Xanadu Live! begins a one-month run in the 99-seat Gascon Center Theatre in Los Angeles, California.
November 12, 2002: Xanadu dancer and assistant choreographer Russell Clark passes away.
September 30, 2005: An unofficial 25th Anniversary screening is held at the Alex Theatre in Los Angeles, California, with live dancers during the "Dancin'" number. The same thing is done about a year later, on October 20, 2006.
Spring 2006: Plans are announced for an off-Broadway production of Xanadu, starting in the summer of 2007.
June 2, 2006: Vince Welnick, keyboardist for the Tubes, passes away.
July 2, 2006: Fred McCarren, who played Richie, passes away.
May 23, 2007: Previews begin for Xanadu on Broadway at the Helen Hayes Theatre, with an opening set for June 26. When actor James Carpinello, who plays Sonny, breaks his foot during a rehearsal, Cheyenne Jackson is called in to replace him, and the opening is rescheduled for July 10.
July 10, 2007: Xanadu opens on Broadway, with Olivia Newton-John and John Farrar in attendance.
January 8, 2008: The original Broadway cast recording of Xanadu is released.
June 24, 2008: Xanadu is re-released on DVD. The new "Magical Musical Edition" includes special features such as a digitally remastered picture, 5.1 surround sound, and the soundtrack CD. There is also a short documentary featuring interviews with many of the cast and crew.
September 28, 2008: After 49 previews and 512 performances, Xanadu closes on Broadway. Performances of the musical continue in the U.S., Tokyo, and Korea.
December 15, 2009: The musical begins a U.S. national tour, ending on May 9, 2010.