Broadway’s wheel appeal

'Xanadu,' 'Mermaid' bring back roller skates

Broadway is on a roll these days — literally.

First came “Xanadu,” the tuner adaptation of the famously bad 1980 pic about a muse who inspires an artist to build a roller disco. Despite dismissive pre-opening buzz, the cheeky show earned strong reviews and has built impressively at the B.O.

Then there’s “The Little Mermaid,” the Disney musical currently in a Denver tryout prior to its Gotham berth this fall. Several of the show’s actors wear specially constructed wheeled shoes — similar to tween-fad footwear Heelys — to mimic underwater movement.

The latest tuner to jump into the rink: “Roller Derby,” a period tale about the co-ed sport that will play the New York Musical Theater Fest in September. Helmer-choreographer Donald McKayle is devising stylized dances on wheels for his cast. Set in the 1970s, the story follows the battle for the title of Roller Derby Queen.

“The stakes are very high,” McKayle says.

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