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On a roll: North drama flashes back to 1980s with ‘Xanadu’

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Before Daniel Padilla ever sang a note of 1980s pop to prepare for his latest stage role, he had to learn a whole new roll.

As in roller skating.

“I cleaned out the garage,” Padilla said. “And I gradually learned how to go and how to stop.”

Padilla, who plays the lead character of Sonny, and other cast members of Columbus North High School production of “Xanadu” aim to let the good times roll Friday, Saturday and Sunday at the school’s Judson Erne Auditorium, 1400 25th St.

In fact, Padilla acknowledged that much of the 90-minute, 1980s musical comedy, based on the Universal Pictures film, boasts a crazy storyline — a down-and-out artist named Sonny follows the lead of muses who convince him to open a roller disco in Venice Beach, Calif. — but also features solid fun and great, hit music.

That includes the title song and others, such as “Have You Never Been Mellow,” which singer Olivia Newton-John made famous.

Female lead Alexandra Young watched the movie and some of the Broadway scenes of the show to purposely catch some of Newton-John’s vocal styling — and the way the stage show playfully poked fun at the pop star’s very breathy approach.

Although only a high school junior, Young already has played the lead of Elle in “Legally Blonde: The Musical” in Carmel and also has appeared in productions at Indianapolis’ Indiana Repertory Theatre and Beef and Boards Dinner Theater.

“I love playing the broad, big characters,” Young said.

Only 17, she already knew two of the 1980s songs well even before she auditioned.

“This show is very cheesy but very entertaining,” she said.

Bad-yet-wonderful humor is pretty much the way director Julie Hult sees “Xanadu,” except that she views it through the prism of personal nostalgia. She remembers ice skating as a 10-year-old in The Lagoons in Columbus while she and her cousins listened to the movie soundtrack — on a record player hooked to a long extension cord, no less.

“We would do the Olivia Newton-John skating moves,” Hult said, laughing at the memory.

Hult also saw the Broadway production when she visited New York City.

Young laughed about the fact that she’s blonde like Newton-John.

And Padilla gets a kick out of the fact that he’s progressed from an orchestra-pit violinist for his freshman year’s spring musical to his current leading role.

“It’s definitely been a learning experience,” he said.

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