“Ignorance is bliss,” Weaver says with a giggle, over breakfast in a diner, her eggs over easy on a plate, and daughter Maisie perched contentedly next to it on the table, in an infant seat. “Thank God I didn’t know how hard this was going to be.”
“This” is the role of Clio, a.k.a. Kira, the sexy, skating, singing star of “Xanadu,” a spoofy musical sendup of an awful Olivia Newton-John movie, and the decade it ushered in, the ’80s. Weaver plays the role of a demi-goddess come to life in a beachside mural who takes it upon herself to steady the misspent adulthood of Sonny, an empty-headed lug played by Charlie Brady, wearing a hideous tie-dyed shirt and equally hideous canary-yellow headband.
Weaver, a New Jersey-born actress who is regularly cast in productions at Round House Theatre and Folger Theatre and is married to stage director Aaron Posner,
is a flat-out revelation in “Xanadu.” The show, genially cobbled together by playwright Douglas Carter Beane and giddily mounted for Signature Theatre by a director rising in local stature,
, features a dozen rock ditties from the period,
such as “Evil Woman,” “Magic” and “Have You Never Been Mellow.” Kira has to sing in all but a couple of them, and much of the time on skates.
It’s not often that a performer working on Washington stages gets this kind of breakout opportunity — or projects as much magnetism as Weaver musters here. Prior to “Xanadu,” her work in straight plays was effective: She made a strong impression as the precocious Thomasina in Folger’s 2009 revival of Tom Stoppard’s “Arcadia.” But such portrayals did not prepare audiences for her coquettishly charismatic turn as Kira.
“I think she’s dazzling,” says Gardiner, who saw her in a production last year of “The Comedy of Errors” at Folger and was intrigued. (That show was directed by Posner; in the eternally interconnected ways of D.C. theater, Gardiner’s identical twin brother, James, just finished a run in Posner’s latest at Folger, “The Taming of the Shrew.”)
“I was sitting there, and I was just blown away by her ability as a comedian, and I said to Posner at intermission, ‘Does she do musicals?’ ” Gardiner recalls. “He said yes and sent me a recording of her singing.”
One gleans that in making his casting decision, Gardiner, who both directed and choreographed the show, went on faith. The petite but tomboyish Weaver, who is in her 30s but could pass for 24, auditioned for the physically demanding role when she was five months pregnant. She told Gardiner that though she wasn’t a dancer per se, she was athletic and had played soccer. How he intuited that a year later she would have the desire to master acrobatic and singing skills while still breast-feeding a baby is one of those mysteries of the theater universe.