The 39 Steps and Xanadu the Musical: Uniquely Entertaining Theater! - TribPapers

The 39 Steps and Xanadu the Musical: Uniquely Entertaining Theater!

Photo Courtesy of Dogged Utopia.

Asheville – I have been wonderfully fortunate to experience quite a few opening night performances at Asheville Community Theatre, and each one has been uniquely fabulous! From the red carpet to the “cocktail hour,” attendees are celebrated for choosing to spend the evening at A.C.T.

The pre-show festivities for Alfred Hitchcock’s The 39 Steps were all of that and also filled with posh nods to the play’s aesthetic, including cucumber sandwiches with the crusts cut off.

As a fan of Hitchcock’s body of work, and particularly the film The 39 Steps, I thought I knew what to expect. Spoiler: I did not.

With lightning-fast dialogue and continuous physical comedy throughout, Patrick Barlow’s script alone would’ve made me laugh nonstop all night.

Adding in the ridiculous ways that three of the actors (Hannah Keith, Mash Hess, and Mikhale Sherrill) flawlessly changed into 150 different characters made me unable to stop laughing long enough to catch my breath.

Our baffled and unassuming “hero,” spectacularly portrayed by Travis Lowe, grounded the play in Hitchcockian style, allowing all four actors to take us on unexpected twists and turns. And with each one of them so hilariously adept at physical humor, it was quite the ride.

The satirical homage to the Master of Suspense was not only brimming with his trademark dry wit but also laced with humor reminiscent of Monty Python, The Keystone Cops, Charlie Chaplin, and key moments that were so unpredictable they felt like they were made up on the spot.

Scenic Designer Jillian Summers and Lighting Designer Abby Auman were instrumental in amplifying much of the visual humor while giving the play the foundation it needed for the performers to figuratively bounce off the walls.

Jeff Catanese’s direction was exactly what this production needed to fully realize the potential of a rollicking farce. New bits and jokes were added so seamlessly that I wasn’t certain which ones were his and which ones were written in the script.

I would love to go into great detail about some of my favorite moments in the show, but this is something you must experience for yourself.

The 39 Steps runs Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2:30 p.m. through July 7th.

More information can be found at

Photo by Eli Cunningham.
Photo by Eli Cunningham.

Xanadu the Musical Rolls into Asheville!

Asheville’s newest theater company, Dogged Utopia, is debuting in a big way with their upcoming production of Xanadu!

Described as a “hilarious, Tony Award-nominated roller skating musical adventure,” this show is based on the cult classic movie of the same name, starring Olivia Newton-John and Gene Kelly. Featuring a creative team of Asheville theater veterans including Eric Martinez, Mark Jones, Kristen Dominguez, and Jessica Garland Lowe, known for entertaining local audiences for years.

Of course, even with the often chaotic schedules that are part of the life of a performer, Jones and Martinez wanted to do even more. There was drive and desire to produce some of the lesser-known yet truly phenomenal and captivating plays and musicals that they loved.

The over-the-top camp, tongue-in-cheek self-awareness, and sincere homage to the original film were what made Xanadu an ideal first project for Dogged Utopia.

I think having the nine-person cast on roller skates was just a bonus.

In talking with the actors at one of their rehearsals, I learned that all but one was a skater. Coincidentally, they were also the only one who had not seen the movie Xanadu.

What they all had in common was their immediate interest in the project because of director Mark Jones. I felt an unwavering trust in each cast and crew member’s response. They knew for certain that this would not only be a thoughtfully directed production but also a wildly fun experience.

For me, that trust between actors, director, and crew is what makes a performance stand out and draw the audience into the world being created on the stage.

And speaking of the stage, those nine actors will be roller skating in Asheville’s iconic BeBe Theatre. The intimate venue is known for being home to some of the area’s most original theatrical companies.

Personally, I can’t wait to throw on some leg warmers, tease my bangs, and see Dogged Utopia’s Xanadu. I’ve heard that there’s a costume contest for each performance’s audience and that some of us will even watch the show from the stage.

Grab your tickets now, because this is a unique event!

Xanadu performances are Thursdays through Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2:30 p.m. from July 4th to July 14th. More information is at