Kayla Joyner was ecstatic to land a principal role in Xanadu, now playing at the Metropolis Performing Arts Centre in Arlington Heights. After all, she is the youngest cast member — she will be a senior at Wheeling High School — and this is her first appearance on the main stage at Metropolis.
While she has several musical theater roles to her credit — including roles at Wheeling and as the narrator in Joseph & the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat with the Big Noise Theatre in Des Plaines — none of them have involved wearing roller skates. Until Xanadu.
Kayla describes attending yearly roller skating parties with her elementary and middle schools, at the Central Community Center in Mount Prospect.
“I thought I was pretty good,” she says with a laugh, “however, no one tells you that dancing on skates is A LOT different then skating laps around a rink.”
She cobbled together a pair of roller skates — complete with pink wheels — that she found on Facebook Marketplace and during rehearsals mastered the art of dancing in skates. In the musical, Kayla plays the role of Euterpe, the Muse of Music, and she performs in ensemble numbers with her Muses Sisters, as a roller skating chorus.
Xanadu follows the journey of a mythological muse, Kira, played by Sophia Mae Brenner, who grew up in Duluth, MN, as a figure skater. In the show, she descends from Mt. Olympus on a quest to inspire a struggling artist, Sonny Malone. When Kira falls into forbidden love with the mortal Sonny, her jealous sisters take advantage of the situation and chaos abounds.
The Tony Award winning musical features lots of pop hits performed by Olivia Newton John in the movie version, and the Electric Light Orchestra, and drew audience members on opening night to sing and tap along.
“Xanadu is a show that makes you happy,” Kayla says. “Our creative team made the rehearsal process full of both intensity and laughter – I looked forward to it everyday!
“It’s 90-minutes of joy,” she adds, “perfect for a summer show.”