At ‘Xanadu’ Opening Night, Disaster Is Only Narrowly Averted

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Newton-John last night. Photo: Patrick McMullan

It was opening night last night for Xanadu, the Broadway musical based on what's one of the most disastrously bad movies of all time. So it was only appropriate that the big night teetered on the edge of its own disasters. Things started badly when the NYPD showed up late with the crowd-control railings for the red carpet, prompting three suit-clad PR boys to wrestle the bulky barriers into place just before Olivia Newton-John — who starred in the original movie — stepped out of her limo. She was wearing an off-the-shoulder top that threatened to cause a disastrous nip-slip at any moment. Newton-John laughed through the performance, but she admitted that it brought back bad memories.

“I think I roller-skated last when I did the movie,” she said. “We were filming ‘Suddenly,’ and I fell and broke my tailbone. They put me in an ice doughnut between takes. It was such a bad experience.” This time, the opening was postponed because of a skating spill that injured its lead actor, James Carpinello — he arrived to the party on crutches — and his replacement, Cheyenne Jackson, worried whether he'll emerge injury-free. “It’s the scariest thing I’ve ever done," Jackson said. What’s getting him through? “I took lessons, and I learned how to fall: Forward. Arms in.” But the only genuine disaster of the night came at the after-party, which lacked air-conditioning. “Frankly,” playwright Douglas Carter Beane wagged, “I would have given up a mirrored disco ball for air-conditioning. I think we had 67 mirror balls. Why not 66 mirror balls and air-conditioning?” —Jocelyn Guest