BWW Review: FLASHDANCE: More Flicker Than Flame
Flashdance - The Musical
Based on the Paramount Pictures Film Screenplay by Tom Hedley and Joe Eszterhas, Story by Tom Hedley; Book by Tom Hedley and Robert Cary, Music by Robbie Roth, Lyrics by Robert Cary and Robbie Roth; Scenic Design, Klara Zieglerova; Costume Design, Paul Tazewell; Lighting Design, Howell Binkley; Projection Design, Peter Nigrini; Sound Design, John Shivers, David Patridge; Production Stage Manager, Joel Rosen; Flashdance Orchestra Conductor, Nicholas Williams; Music Supervision & Arrangements by Jason Howland; Direction & Choreography by Sergio Trujillo
CAST: Sydney Morton, Corey Mach, Allison Ewing, Ginna Claire Mason, Dequina Moore, Madeleine Doherty, David R. Gordon, Steve Greenstein, Christian Whelan; ENSEMBLE: Erika Amato, Matt Anctil, Ashley Arcement, Mackenzie Bell, Derek Carley, Ryan Carlson, Whitney Cooper, Haley Hannah, Charlene Hoffman, Jarvis McKinley, Doreen Montalvo, Austin Owen, Katelyn Prominski, Angelo Soriano, Lawrence E. Street, Kamille Upshaw, Blake Zelesnikar
Performances through March 23 as part of the Lexus Broadway In Boston Season at the Citi Emerson Colonial Theatre, 106 Boylston Street, Boston, MA; Box Office 1-800-982-2787 or www.broadwayinboston.com
Flashdance - The Musical is all about the dance. Enjoy the old songs you remember from the 1983 Paramount Pictures film and the sixteen new songs composed specifically for the stage show, marvel at the eclectic choreography performed by the electrifying dancers in the ensemble, but forget the book. With more than two dozen musical numbers and lyrics that often serve to move the story forward, there's not much time or need for dialogue. The story hasn't changed drastically, but it has been fleshed out with some additional characters and tilts a little stronger on the love axis.
The stage adaptation has been a long time coming, having had a tour in the United Kingdom in 2008, a less-than-stellar opening in London in 2010, and its planned move to Broadway postponed two or three times. In a reversal of the usual approach, the producers decided to take the show on a multi-city national tour for fine tuning before debuting on Broadway. As much as the audience at Boston's Citi Emerson Colonial Theatre registered its approval on opening night, I'm not sure that New York audiences will be as appreciative. The major hook in Flashdance is the all-consuming passion that Pittsburgh steel mill welder Alex Owens has for dance and her dogged pursuit of her dream, but that passion gets delayed, derailed, and distracted too many times in this iteration.
Sydney Morton makes an immediate impression as Alex with her tough-girl persona and powerful vocal chops. She knows how to sell a song and blends in well in the ensemble dances, but that's part of the problem. Alex is the star and needs to stand out from the crowd. She has some pizzazz in her brief solo dances at the nightclub where she moonlights, especially in the iconic water-dumping scene ("Maniac") at the end of the first act. However, in her big audition routine ("What a Feeling") that is the show's climax, her performance is underwhelming. Individual dance numbers by her trio of girlfriends Kiki (Dequina Moore), Tess (Alison Ewing), and Gloria (Ginna Claire Mason) have much higher voltage and, I daresay, passion.
Corey Mach plays Nick Hurley, the good-looking, preppy scion of the mill's owners who falls for Alex while attempting to make his mark in the hierarchy. The book gets bogged down with this storyline, struggling to make Nick the savior of the labor force (the 99%) when his bread is buttered on the other side (the 1%), in order to make him appealing to Alex. It isn't credible, nor is the speed with which they become involved with each other with little foundation. Mach is also blessed with a voice suited to the rock score, and although he and Morton make beautiful music together, they fail to click convincingly as lovers. Mason and David R. Gordon (Jimmy) fare better, perhaps because their characters are from the same side of the tracks and they are both genuine in their search for stardom.
Secondary characters are generally stronger throughout, perhaps owing to the fact that they each fill a niche and require less development. That roster includes Hannah (Madeleine Doherty), a former ballerina who is a surrogate mother for Alex; Miss Wilde (Erika Amato), the admissions director at the Shipley Academy who looks down her nose when Alex inquires about studying ballet there; gruff Harry (Steve Greenstein) and sleazy C.C. (Christian Whalen), competing club owners who vie for the talents of the female dancers. The foreman (Lawrence E. Street), one of the laborers at the mill (Austin Owen), and Hannah's caretaker Louise (Doreen Montalvo) are solid in small roles. Break Dancer Ryan Carlson does amazing moves, in stark contrast to the classical fluidity of Ballet Dancers Katelyn Prominski and Blake Zelesnikar.
The production values in Flashdance are very flashy, with elaborate, colorful costumes (designer Paul Tazewell), rapid scene changes thanks to the magic of projections (Peter Nigrini), and quickly alternating lighting displays (Howell Binkley), including some strobe effects. The opening montage at the erector set-like steel mill (designer Klara Zieglerova) has about fifteen seconds of sparks flying from a welder's tool (just a tease), and most of the show has a smoke-infused look to it. Amplification is quite adequate and the sound design by John Shivers and David Patridge provides a balance between the performers and the eight-piece orchestra led by Conductor Nicholas Williams.
The creative team is helmed by Tom Hedley who is credited with the story idea, co-wrote the original screenplay, and co-wrote the book of the musical with Robert Cary. It is still set in the 1980s, but it has an anachronistic feel when juxtaposed with the quick cuts that modern day audiences expect. Cary also collaborated with composer Robbie Roth on the lyrics for the new songs which favor a disco beat and match up well with the songs from the film score. However, many of the lyrics are groan-worthy and, if you walk out singing anything, it is likely to be "Maniac," "Gloria," or "What a Feeling." As both director and choreographer, Serge Trujillo is responsible for creating the passion that comes across when the dance ensemble is on the floor, but he needs to pump life into the non-musical segments that slow the show to a crawl. Flashdance - The Musical delivers on its promise of electrifying dance, but its story is forgettable and fails to inspire.