BWW Reviews: Local Actor, Corey Mach, Turns on Audience in FLASHDANCE at the Palace
(Member, American Theatre Critics Association, Cleveland Critics Circle)
On opening night, when Corey Mach made his first appearance on stage in "Flashdance The Musical," the audience, after being prepped about his entrance by Gina Vernaci, Senior Vice President of Theater Operations, greeted him with a lengthy ovation. During the curtain call, the audience exploded in vocal and physical adoration when Mach came on stage. Then, when the 2006 Strongsville High School and 2010 Baldwin-Wallace alum put on an Indian's baseball cap, the Palace Theatre literally shook with unbridled excitement. Yes, this was a glorious "welcome home Corey" celebration.
Mach is Broadway leading man material. He's tall, dark, handsome, with a strong singing voice, great acting chops, and a charming "Midwest wholesome" personality. Mach's credits already include the international tour of "Rent," as well as the role of Fiyero in the touring production of "Wicked," and the Broadway revival of "Godspell."
When I reviewed Mach in the 2010 BW/Playhouse Square production of "Chess," as staged by BW Musical Theater faculty member, Victoria Bussert, I commented that he was "sincere and sensitive." In another commentary I tagged him as "ready for Broadway," and as having "star quality." Yes, he's another one of Bussert's "kids" who is making good!
The touring version of "Flashdance The Musical" is part of the Key Bank Broadway series. The national tour, which started in January of 2013, has four more stops, ending in Toronto (May 27-June 8).
The show is based on the 1983 romantic film, "Flashdance," which was written by Tom Hedley and Clevelander, Joe Esterhazy.
Though the flick opened to negative reviews, it went on to be a surprise box office success. It was the third highest grossing film of 1983 and has become a cult favorite, having brought in more than $100 million dollars in worldwide box office sales. The sound track included "Maniac" and "Flashdance...What a Feeling" which have become pop standards.
The musical stage version, which was billed as "an unmistakably unique musical about holding onto your dreams and love against all odds," premiered in the UK, and toured that country. The oft-promised Broadway opening is up-in-the-air. Originally the show was announced as opening on the Great White Way in August of 1913. That date has been set back, and now is in limbo again because the producers say, "The postponement is due to a lack of theaters."
Both the stage and film versions center on Alex Owens, an eighteen-year-old small town girl who moves to Pittsburgh in order to pursue a career in dance. She has no formal training and winds up working as an exotic dancer by night and a welder in the Hurley Steel Mill by day. In the musical, into her workday life saunters Nick Hurley, the grandson of the mill's owner. Their on-and-off romance, her overcoming her lack of dance self-confidence, complications caused by issues of her co-workers at both the bar and the steel mill, and her need to learn the meaning of love, fuel the story.
Of course, as happens in all feel-good, plot obvious musicals, only a "Maniac" wouldn't know that in the "Steeltown Sky," the girl will realize "It's All in Reach," as "Here and Now," she understands that this is "Where I Belong," and she learns to "Hang on," so she finally can realize, "What a Feeling" it is to get her dancing dreams and a wealthy, nice, and studly guy.
The musical and book don't exactly follow the same plan. Sixteen songs have been added for the stage version, Grunt, the lovable dog of flick fame, is gone, lots of characters are cut and others added, the name of the dance conservatory has been changed, the character of Jeannie, an ice skating friend of Alex, has been modified, the character of Nick's ex-wife is gone, and Alex doesn't trash Nick's apartment. What is left is an obvious "I told you that's the way it would turn out" ending of boy meets girl, girl rejects boy, boy pursues, girl finally realizes that he is prince charming!
The touring production is pure entertainment, centering on dancing, dancing and more dancing, plus singing, singing and more singing. It sweeps up the audience, not with the story but with the choreography, musicality, and the abundant use of electronic graphics.
The role of Nick Hurley is a perfect vehicle for Mach. He puts on the character and wears it with complete confidence and talent. He makes Clevelanders proud to call him "ours."
Tiny and adorable Sydney Morton has the right cocky, yet insecure persona as Alex. Her singing and acting are excellent, her dancing not up to the required level. Her highlight number, when she tries out for dance school, though perfectly adequate, doesn't compel as it should.
Alison Ewing and Dequina Moore delight as exotic dancers, the dance chorus is high octane excellent, and the orchestra, though sounding rather shrill due to an over-dependence on the electronic keyboard, develops the multi-musical sounds.
CAPSULE JUDGEMENT: "Flashdance The Musical" is one of those musicals that delights audiences, while not being a well-written show. It has strong music, great choreography and Corey Mach, local kid makeing good. That ought be more than enough to please the Cleveland faithful.
"Flashdance The Musical" is scheduled to run through April 13, 2014. For tickets call 216-241-6000 or go to www.playhousesquare.org
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