Flashdance The Musical Pumps Up The Audience

fd1You have read correctly. FLASHDANCE the 1983 cult classic has been adapted for the stage and is now playing at Segerstrom Center for the Arts. Not only has the stage production brought back the Academy Award winning songs with such hits as “Flashdance – What a Feeling”, “Maniac”, “Gloria” and “Manhunt”, but has also created 16 brand new songs! If you’re feeling a little nostalgic toward the 80’s and just can’t stop belting out “WHAT A FEELING!!” in the shower, then sing some more ‘cause your favorite defining soundtrack of 80’s is now live on stage.

Oh, you’re not one of the millions that have fallen in love with the movie? It’s okay, me neither. FLASHDANCE surprisingly appeals to all walks of life.  The reason is simple; FLASHDANCE is a very common and appealing story that many of us have related to for decades. Yes, 3 decades, because heck, even though this is a story we have all heard before, it is a story from 1983 after all.

FLASHDANCE, in case you’re not familiar with $150 million grossing pop culture hit, is the story of Alex Owens, JILLIAN MUELLER (Memphis, American Idiot, and Bye Bye Birdie), who is an inspiring dancer that is trapped as a Pittsburgh steel  mill welder by day and a risqué bar dancer at night. Trying to fulfill her dreams of getting into Shippley Academy Dance School she becomes faced with a romance with her boss at the steel mill.  Alex will have to understand the meaning of love and that it can ignite her passion to go the distance.

Her boss Nick Hurley is played by MATTHEW HYDZIK and is a Pittsburgh native that is thrilled to be part of the world premiere tour of FLASHDANCE – THE MUSICAL. Matthew has last been seen on Broadway in West Side Story and Grease, as well as national tours of Rent, Fame and Grease. Needless to say, he was phenomenal and had a very strong voice.  Unfortunately, the amazing voices fall flat quickly after him.

It was of course great to hear classics such as “Gloria” and “Maniac” in which you can’t do too wrong with, however the arrangement of “Gloria” seemed a bit slow and the audience is forced hearing this catching tune several times in other rearrangements.  “Maniac” comes to play during the all too famous sexy wet hair striptease that you have most likely seen one way or another. The scene was undoubtedly astonishing and well produced.

fd3KLARA ZIEGLEROVA completes the challenging job of scenic design, which was one of the true highlights of the show.  The stage production has to be flashy to compliment the fantastic footwork as the backdrops utilize many clever projectors headed by PETER NIGRINI.  These aren’t just giant videos or graphics in the back. In fact there are many well-disguised screens and creative projector elements that quickly start to blend with the real elements and props on stage.  Remember this show must go from a steel mill, to strip clubs, to house sets, and even the iconic audition room from “What a Feeling”.  In order to create these quite different styled sets, ZIEGLEROVA had to be a little abstract. It works well and appears to be quite complicated.

With using all of this new tech, it was tough for the stage production to feel more organic, which is fine however it kind of took away from that classic 80’s feel you may be searching for. Many may actually like this aspect to the show as it actually feels quite modern.  This however may actually be a slight problem in the show to some.  The fans of the movie will be attending FLASHDANCE to get that 80’s vibe and feeling of living in the past; that youthfulness that they miss from a time they either grew up in or lived their most important years.

I was actually hoping that FLASHDANCE was going to live off the success of another cult-classic movie turned stage production, XANADU.  That’s right I’m talking about the disco-skating horrible 80’s movie.  That show actually poked fun at itself as that team knew they couldn’t take themselves seriously.  Oh sure, that film is a far cry from FLASHDANCE , but still contains some of the ridiculousness of the 80’s. You do indeed have some of the ugly fashion, classic songs from the decade, and a few nods to the past.  Sadly, much of the costume design could fly in today’s world and there are hardly any jokes toward the decade.  Alex’s hair was thankfully not as big as in the movie.

This root “feeling” one inherits while watching the movie is also lost with the new songs orchestrated for FLASHDANCE – THE MUSICAL.  The new songs are definitely refreshing and contain that ever-so-popular key chain all pop songs from the 80’s felt necessary. However, it turns into a mix of rather WICKED-like music mixed with cherished songs from the movie that create a hodge-podge of nods from the past to a whole new type of show.

FLASHDANCE is yet still a fun-filled sexy musical that has the makings of a successful entertaining night on the town.  The show is paced well sprinkled with sexy dance numbers here and there with dramatic, emotion evoking songs along with some silly numbers that will surely get you smiling. The vocals are kind of rough or down right odd in places, which could have worked well if they didn’t take the show so seriously. Instead we get some silly songs in the midst of over dramatic quarrels that seem a bit over-the-top.

fd2Gloria (Alex’s best friend from the bar dancing world) played by KELLY FELTHOUS is a bit of the comedic relief, but just reminds me of Galinda from WICKED with the same characteristics, vocal tone, and singing pitch. Her boyfriend Jimmy, DAVID R. GORDON, has some comedic lines that just fall flat. His delivery is fine, but the script just didn’t have it for any of the laughs. GORDON has a couple of songs that appear a bit jarring compared to the rest of the musical. This may have been written that way, but I couldn’t help but feel the audience squirm when this totally different style of singing popped into the show out of nowhere. He would definitely be great in a hipster rock band, but I didn’t find its place in FLASHDANCE.

The show as a whole is fun and energetic with lots of sensual pulsating dancing.  I still enjoyed myself and would still recommend anyone that is a fan of the movie to still see how it was portrayed on stage.  For those of you that aren’t too familiar with the movie itself, it’s still worth a gander and can make for an excellent date night.  I might even tip toe around the idea of it being mostly family friendly. Well, mid-teens and up, but those teenagers may feel a little strange next to their parents during some near revealing dance numbers.

As did the movie, the whole show depends on that climatic audition. I can’t say much, but if you are familiar with the scene, it’s tough for the stage production to capture the emotion that is seen with multiple camera angles and close-ups.  Director and choreographer SERGIO TRUJILLO puts his own spin and flair to the original scene. You’ll be the judge if it works or not.

FLASHDANCE – THE MUSICAL is now playing a Segerstrom Center for the Arts until May 19th, 2013.

Single tickets start at $20 and are available online at SCFTA.org, at the Box Office at 600 Town Center in Costa Mesa or by calling (714) 556-2787.

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