You know her face. You’ve seen it loads of times on television and in movies. But, I bet you a shiny penny you’d be hard pressed to recall the name of one of America’s most photographed faces: Annie Golden.
Annie is a gifted actress/singer who is currently touring in a big-on-Broadway production of Xanadu that’s about to hit the Keller (it opens for a one week run on Tuesday).
And once you see her perform live you will never forget her name again.
That’s how I felt when I saw her sail across the stage in Sacramento, Calif., the show’s home prior to Portland.
Xanadu is a roller-disco-fueled, Greek theater-staged, highly energetic, jukebox musical that bears the same name, and most of the songs, of the classic 1980’s movie starring Olivia Newton-John, Gene Kelly, Michael Beck and a thousand extras on skates. If you go to this musical expecting a stage version of the unintentionally gay-larious film, you’ll be surprised. Playwright Douglas Carter Beane gets the joke that is this piece of puffy pop culture and has written a highly original take on the 80’s artifact with all sorts of jabs at the state of musicals today, and in its own weird way, love. Xanadu, the stage musical, also gives you a bit more of the back-story on the whole “artist vs. muse” thingy that disappeared in the movie once Olivia Newton-John, as muse-in-charge Kira, started wearing leg warmers. This show is—wait for it—amusing to say the least. And some of that has to do with Annie Golden who not only plays the trouble-making Calliope, but Aphrodite too.
She is a hoot. Cute too boot. Think Sarah Jessica Parker meets Pat Benatar and you to get a good picture of Annie.
As she twirled across Sac’s California Musical Theater stage, I started to recall the other projects I’d seen her in, perhaps none more compelling than her turn as “Jeanie” in the movie musical Hair. But I had no idea Golden was also the lead singer in a punk rock band, The Shirts (see photo above) or that she once had a Cindy Lauper-ish pop hit in the 1980’s called “Hang Up the Phone.” Or the fact that she has a new film coming out where she appears next to Jim Carrey and Ewan McGregor in the gay-lovers-in-prison film I Love You, Phillip Morris. That was, not until I flew back to Portland, googled her name, and then talked to her via the phone after a weekday matinee.
Byron Beck: Is it true you were “discovered” for the movie Hair at New York’s noted punk club CBGB’s?
Annie Golden: Yeah, I have a one-woman show called “Annie Golden’s Velvet Prison” where I talk about how the night (film director) Milos Forman came to CBGB’s he was either ‘talent scouting or slumming it.’ It was after he saw me perform with my band that he decided to cast me in a leading role in a major motion picture.
Did you have any previous formal training in the arts?
No, I didn’t have any training at all. I came out of the Bowery and rock and roll.
What is the biggest difference between touring with a band and touring with a musical?
When you are touring with a band you are the instrument. It’s ‘you’ singing the songs that you’ve written. It’s your vision and creation. And often, you are the one in control. When you’re in a musical it’s more of a collaborative art. Your process reflects the intention of different voices including fellow actors, director, musicians, publicists, etc.
So, does working on a musical make you more of a muse, like your character, Calliope, in Xanadu?
The job of a muse is to inspire and encourage. And, fortunately enough, that has happened to me many times throughout my career. But the truth is that you are responsible to the writer, composer and choreographers vision, not your own. If you accept that responsibility and try to do the best you can with what you are given than it’s not a burden, but a blessing. That’s when you get to entertain, and sometimes, even change the world.
Yeah, it’s pretty wonderful.
Xanadu, Keller Auditorium, 222 SW Clay St., 241-1802. 7:30 pm Tuesday-Friday, 2 and 7:30 pm Saturday, 1 and 6:30 pm Sunday, Jan. 12-17. $23.25-$68.25