BWW Review: FLASHDANCE THE MUSICAL Needs Work
According to Theatre League president Mark Edelman, FLASHDANCE THE MUSICAL , which was seen this weekend as part of the Broadway in Birmingham series, is a new production. This tour marks "the next stage in the development of this work." In an email to season ticket holders Edelman explains that "since the premier in London's West End, the show has gone through several different incarnations here in the U.S."
In this critic's mind they need to keep working. Last night's performance of FLASHDANCE at the Birmingham- Jefferson Civic Center Concert Hall was a huge disappointment.
FLASHDANCE has a special meaning to me- it was the first movie my husband and I saw together over 30 years ago. We had both already seen it, but didn't want to tell the other so we saw it again. When we saw that FLASHDANCE was being made into a play we were excited.
What a letdown.
Punctuated with the occasional dance move from the movie or a snippet of a song from the film, most of the play was a chopped up version of the story with second rate original music added. It never let the main character, Alex, develop into the capable woman she was intended to be either as a welder or a dancer. Partly due to the casting and partly due to the poor direction and choreography, Alex never seems to be capable in any of her endeavors.
The comment by Edelman in his email that "the current tour is a bit more gritty than it was before" is hard to understand since even the costumes, especially in the strip club scenes, have the poor girls more covered up than most of us are on the beach. I saw nothing "gritty" in this show.
Iconic scenes like the sweatshirt scene where Alex removes her bra from under a giant sweatshirt, did not come off as sexy, but awkward. For the rest of that scene the constant fidgeting with the sweatshirt made me totally lose focus on the play.
Few of the singing voices were particularly good which astonishes me since I just saw a college production where ALL of the voices were outstanding. Duets and other group numbers especially pointed out the mismatched voices which didn't blend well.
And where were the live musicians? As far as I could tell all of the music was canned, recorded music. I saw no signs of real musicians and none are listed in the program. Another huge mistake for a live musical trying to "make it big."
This should be a dance heavy show, but instead the dancers were made to carry out rather juvenile choreography. Little things like toes not pointed, lots of hair tossing and basic steps like grapevines repeated over and over made the whole thing seem unprofessional.
I will say that the set is nice. The use of projections on the corrugated background worked well for signage and locations. The random videos are not as successful.
If I were pressed to help with the revamping of this show, I would keep the set and start over from there. If indeed this is a tryout and a work in progress, I would have to say the kindest thing would be to just let it flash out. If it is to be resurrected, then it needs new original music, a better telling of the story and a new director.
The Theatre League needs to do a better job of getting a season together. At Christmas I had to forgo a review altogether because I didn't want to be harsh during the season of comfort and joy. However, two of this season's productions were sub-par. With so much excellent local theatre in this city we don't need to have poor performances brought in at exorbitant prices. We expect and deserve better.