“Flashdance The Musical” is a Maniac of a Show

Morgan Capodilupo ’17 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer

Jillian Mueller in Flashdance. Photo Credit: Broadway.com.
Jillian Mueller in Flashdance. Photo Credit: Broadway.com.

Flashdance: The Musical energetically dances its way into Boston for a limited engagement at the Colonial Theatre. However, the dancing is just about the only high spirited part of this flimsy show, which leaves audiences wanting more once the choreography is done. The actors must fend for themselves, navigating a cheesy book and eye-roll inducing lyrics, both which detracted from the true star of the show: the dance pieces.

Flashdance: The Musical premiered in London’s West End in 2010, directed by Kenny Leon. In this incarnation, Tony Award winning director and choreographer Sergio Trujillo takes the helm of the flashy performance. Though he excels in staging his actors, who are all phenomenal dancers, he fails to direct where acting is concerned. Trujillo has worked on numerous Broadway shows, including Jersey Boys and Memphis, the former panned by critics for its uninspired jukebox musical format. Flashdance does not fare much better.

Adapted from the 1983 movie of the same name, the musical tells the story of Alex Owens, a tough eighteen year old girl who works in a Pittsburgh steel mill by day, and performs as a burlesque dancer by night. She dreams of dancing at the Shipley School of Ballet, and her dreams become reality when she meets and falls in love with her boss, the young, handsome Nick Hurley. It’s the classic “boy meets girl, tries to win her affections and loses them in a miscommunication, and eventually gets her back again” story, and instead of theatrical twists and turns, the plot is incredibly predictable and disengaging.

Jillian Mueller and the cast of Flashdance. Photo Credit: Broadway.com.
Jillian Mueller and the cast in Flashdance. Photo Credit: Broadway.com.

Sydney Morton leads the cast as Alex Owens, the role made famous by Jennifer Beals in the film. She does so with tons of verve and perhaps a bit too much perk. She’s a street kid who wants more out of life than what she’s been given, dreaming of the day she can dance at the prestigious Shipley School of Ballet. Morton’s strong alto belt gives songs such as “It’s All In Reach” and “Let Go” a wonderful, warm feel, but her acting falls somewhere in the unpolished valley between community theatre and high school drama club performance.

If the show was a rock opera, Morton would have been stunning. Handsome leading man Corey Mach plays opposite her as Nick Hurley, a man whose entire outlook on life is changed when he meets Alex. Though he does a bit better handling the insipid writing, his character quickly loses the audience’s sympathy when it is revealed he has been paying off the ballet school to grant Alex admission. Mach nicely transitions from the confident man in charge to a fool in love, and commands the stage with his powerful presence. His first act showstopper, “Justice”, brings down the house as he confides in the men at the steel plant of his plans to woo Alex.

Though these star crossed lovers find romance to the tune of an 80’s drum machine, the real standouts are the supporting couple, Gloria (Ginna Claire Mason) and Jimmy (David R. Gordon). Mason’s portrayal of Gloria, a girl who longs for MTV stardom, is as bubbly and fun as a Madonna song, and her sweet stooge of a boyfriend, Jimmy, brings a heartfelt element to a show that somewhat lacks honest emotion. Their song “Remember Me” is beautiful without sappiness, and their quick one liners keep the audience engaged all night long. Supporting characters step into the spotlight, bringing the world of the 1980’s to life. Madeleine Doherty plays Hannah, Alex’s surrogate mother and a former ballerina. She has excellent comedic timing and her acting is reminiscent of Angela Lansbury.

Kelly Felthous, DeQuina Moore and Katie Webber in Flashdance. Photo Credit: Broadway.com.
Kelly Felthous, DeQuina Moore and Katie Webber in Flashdance. Photo Credit: Broadway.com.

Whether she is belting out a number, chastising her nurse (Doreen Montalvo, in a memorable cameo role), or encouraging Alex to follow her dreams, Doherty is truly a diamond in the rough. Alison Ewing and DeQuina Moore bring down the house as Tess and Kiki, Alex’s dancer friends. Both of these women are triple threats, and joyously cavort around the stage, quipping sarcastic remarks, power belting, and rocking those fabulous costumes. Steve Greenstein gives a fatherly cameo to club owner, Harry, and Christian Whelan rounds out the cast as slimy sleazeball CC. Whelan is a quiet scene stealer, commanding the stage with his large, powerful presence and gold chain jewelry. The clearly talented cast does what they can with a monotonous score and less than stellar book.

The musical flounders when it comes to the score. Every song sounds the same, and none except the title tune stick after the curtain comes down. Yes, the 80’s were a decade defined by the electric beats, but some variety would have been much appreciated, especially in a three hour show. The song structures feature an AB-AB rhyme scheme and predictable lyrics, all which get very dry and dull after the third or fourth tune. Some of the writing could use a bit of tightening as well, as the scenes, especially the ones between Alex and Nick, did not match the high energy delivered through the dance numbers.

Kelly Felthous and David R. Gordon in Flashdance. Photo Credit: Broadway.com.
Kelly Felthous and David R. Gordon in Flashdance. Photo Credit: Broadway.com.

Visually, everything in this show is a colorful burst, from the neon hues of the costumes, to the splashy multimedia projection backdrops. Costume designer Paul Tazewell goes all out, especially in the outfits worn by Alex’s friends at the dance club. Sassy Kiki (DeQuina Moore), and streetwise Tess (Alison Ewing) are outfitted in delicious confections of glitter, sequins, and even hilariously tacky “Playboy Bunny” and “French Maid” getups, much to their onstage protests. The sets designed by Klara Zieglerova are outrageously eye catching, and even feature real sparks in the welding scenes in the mill. Since the book and lyrics, penned by Robert Cary, are dull, the visual design elements are bright enough to hold attention throughout the show.

This show tours nationally before its Broadway run, scheduled sometime in late 2014. Clearly, Flashdance has a long way to go before it can be considered a theatre legend, but for now, Trujillo and his cast have a solid base that will hopefully improve over time. And “What a feeling” that will be!

Flashdance: The Musical runs from March 12th-March 23rd at the Citi Emerson Colonial Theatre. 

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