What kind of a stoner would consider “Xanadu” — the 1980 turkey-on-roller-skates that put the skids on Olivia Newton-John’s movie career — ideal material for a Broadway musical? Rob Ahrens, the show’s 37-year-old lead producer, admits to having been “a surfer boy from Long Island” in his youth.
But Ahrens swears he had no dopey illusions about the merits of the film property, which he labored long and hard to acquire.
“It was a cult classic, which is not the same thing as a legitimate classic, like ‘Casablanca,’ ” says Ahrens of the spoof-worthy vehicle he turned into the surprise hit of the season. “What appealed to me was the fact that it was a flawed property. But the music was great, the energy was great, and elements of the story had heart — and I saw the potential.”
For a newbie producer, Ahrens impressed his professional peers with his industrious pursuit of the multifaceted rights to “Xanadu.” “What I find fascinating about the business is how much work goes into it,” he says. “People think it’s about glamour, but it’s all about perseverance and work. And as Hillary used to say about being married to Bill, it’s many things, but it’s never boring.”