BWW Reviews: FLASHDANCE - THE MUSICAL is a Splashy, Flashy Rehash at The Bushnell
FLASHDANCE - THE MUSICAL
Theatre: The Bushnell
Location: 166 Capitol Avenue, Hartford, CT
Production: Book by Tom Hedley and Robert Carey, Music by Robbie Roth, Lyrics by Robert Carey and Robbie Roth; Direction and Choreography by Sergio Trujillo; Scenic Design by Klara Zieglerova; Lighting Design by Howell Binkley; Costume Design by Paul Tazewell; Sound Design by John Shivers and David Patridge; Projection Design by Peter Negrini. Through October 20; Friday at 8 p.m. Saturday at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.; Sunday at 1 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.; Tickets $22-$5, call 860-987-5900 or visit www.bushnell.org.
I love my friend Lila. She was incredibly excited that I invited her to be my guest when I went to review Flashdance - The Musical, now running at The Bushnell through Sunday, October 20. Lila's a game gal. Midway through the second act, during a strip club scene, Lila leaned over to me and whispered, "After this, we should go to the Gold Club." For those uninitiated among Hartford theatre fans, the Gold Club is the exotic dance establishment nestled among the car dealerships and hotels off of I-91. Much to her disbelief, I said, "Sure. Meet you there." I'm a game guy. And off we went to post-game the musical as we chatted with strippers.
It was just a matter of time before some entrepreneurial theatre producer saw the stage potential of Flashdance. Following in the leg-warmered footsteps of Footloose, Saturday Night Fever, Dirty Dancing, Xanadu and Fame, it almost seems an inevitability that the 1983 hit film would be musicalized. With a handful of hit tunes at their disposal, including the Oscar-winning "Flashdance - What a Feeling," book writer Tom Hedley (who wrote the original screenplay with Joe Eszterhas) and Robert Carey have expanded the 95-minute film by almost an hour (inclusive of intermission).
The story is fairly simple, if seemingly outlandish. A steel mill welder by day, Alex Owens is a "flashdancer" by night. Not exactly a stripper or exotic dancer, flashdancing appears to be a cross between modern dance, stripping and a drag act performed in a bar that serves hamburgers. Never receiving formal training and pining to ditch her welding gun, Alex wants to go to a formal dance academy. Will she achieve her dream? Does a torn sweatshirt expose your shoulder?!
Hedley and Carey have wisely developed the story more fully and credibly than in the film. I remember when the film came out and people had a hard time swallowing the welder/dancer conceit. I can safely report that, due to exacting post-show research, none of the Gold Club dancers are welders. One is raising money to buy her house, another is a student working on a paper on gender stereotypes between pole dances, and a third is a caregiver for the elderly by day and paying off her breast implants on an installment plan by night (the left one is paid in full; the right still has an outstanding balance - true story).
Where Hedley and Carey go a bit awry is in the development of the character of Alex, played by Jillian Mueller. By making her more believably rough around the edges, she has lost much of the likability that made Jennifer Beals so fetching in the film. The stage Alex is so abrupt and stand-offish to her love interest, steel mill scion Nick (Corey Mach), that one is left to wonder why he would pursue her so relentlessly. By having Nick literally buy Alex's way into her big audition, he comes off as oilier than he does in the film. This is not the fault of the performers, particularly Mueller who clearly has acting and vocal chops AND does her own dancing, something Jennifer Beals did not have to do in the film.