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Hale Center Theater Orem to stage 'Xanadu' to raise money for director battling Lou Gehrig's disease

OREM — When Chris Clark was diagnosed this spring with Lou Gehrig's disease, also known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, his colleague and friend Jennifer Hill-Barlow took action to fulfill a wish of his.

Clark, a frequent director of shows at Hale Center Theater Orem and chairman of the theater department at Utah Valley University, expressed his desire to bring “Xanadu” back to the HCTO stage, having previously directed it there in 2013. That gave Hill-Barlow the idea to organize an encore production to fulfill his dream and raise money to help with his medical expenses, she said.

“Everything’s been donated or paid for by a sizable donation, and so all of the ticket sales will go to Chris and (his wife) Lisa, to help them with upcoming medical expenses,” Hill-Barlow said.

Based on the 1980 film, “Xanadu” is about Greek muses who come to Earth in human form to inspire men to achieve great art. The head muse, Kira, meets an artist named Sonny Malone, who builds a huge roller rink to combine disco, art and life.

Clark said he watched the movie many times growing up with the sole purpose of making fun of it.

“When I found out they were making a Broadway version of it, I wasn’t sure how it would work because it was a terrible movie,” Clark said. “They basically poke fun at the movie in the musical, so it’s hilarious. For me, it’s just like being able to work on something I grew up with.”

The upcoming production at HCTO will include many of its previous cast members, several of whom are taking a leave of absence from national tours to reprise their roles, according to the news release.

“I just feel really grateful that so many people have stepped forward to help and be a part it,” Clark said. “It’s not something that I could really organize. Just having so many people giving up so much of their time and their energy to this, and to help me and my family, is just overwhelming.”

ALS is a progressive disease that attacks the nervous system, weakens the muscles and has no cure, Clark said. He has been losing functionality in his legs and arms, and the disease is expected to spread. The money earned will go not only toward his medical bills but also toward new expenses related to his disease.

“It’ll cover my medical expenses, so things like wheelchairs and walkers and even hospice care if it comes to that,” Clark said. “My home is not wheelchair accessible, so it’ll help us a little bit with that.”

Clark is working with doctors to prolong his life and slow down the progress of the disease.

“One of the things the doctors have told me is to stay very busy, and stay in a positive place,” Clark said. “People who keep themselves busy and stay positive tend to have better results. Making my home more accessible and being able to get around easier — that is a huge benefit to me and my family.”

More information about the production and fundraising efforts is available at xanadubenefit.com.

If you go …

What: “Xanadu” benefit production

When: June 24 and 30 and July 1 and 2, 10:30 p.m.; and June 25 and July 2, 11 a.m.

Where: Hale Center Theater Orem, 225 W. 400 North, Orem

How much: Tickets begin at $25 and increase to $5,000

Phone: 801-226-8600

Web: xanadubenefit.com

Note: A pre-performance party and silent auction will be held at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, June 25, at the Barlow residence, 10707 N. Spyglass, Cedar Hills.

Email: cstimpson@deseretnews.com