Saturday, January 5, 2013

Theatre review: "Flashdance, the musical" on tour

You don’t have much time to catch Flashdance the Musical, kicking off the  American debut here in the city where the story is set, heading for Broadway later this year. The show world-premiered, oddly, in the UK where it ran for two and a half years. Reading about that on-line, it’s clear that alterations to the story have been underway.

This version, derived from the 1983 movie, looks phenomenal. It arrives full of exciting, superbly choreographed and danced numbers with everyone dressed in an incredible array of impressive, constantly changing costumes, some materializing on the non-stop active bodies as if by magic. And the fascinating, constantly creative set has a life of its own making the most and best of lighting, shifting walls and ceilings and perfectly chosen projections, often calling forth images of our special city. The cast, meanwhile, performs all the vocal and physical demands with impressive energy and talent.

Robbie Roth and Robert Cary’s rock-based songs sound more generic than special with some of the lyrics coming across as inventive. But you’ve got to hand it to them, they don’t get heavily into selling their stuff with front and center pushiness as do plenty of shows these days. Cary and Tom Hedley's  fairly elemental book remains convincing and not overly obvious. For example, the final scene has no big production number as you might expect. This show has that kind of integrity.

Evidently the plot resembles the movie’s. Alex Owens is a steelworker by day and a go-go dancer at night. She yearns to enroll at a prestigious ballet school encouraged by elderly, retired dancer Hannah. A romance develops between Alex and factory executive Nick Hurley. They have their ups and downs while Alex’s long-time buddy Gloria, who dreams of becoming a dancing star, has a similarly variable relationship with would-be comic Jimmy.

The dancing by Emily Padgett as Alex glows dynamically and she sings in fine voice, always making everything look effortless and natural while Pittsburgh-born Matthew Hydzik brings warm sincerity to the role of Nick. Kelly Felthous and David R. Gordon's versions of Gloria and Jimmy stay equally believable plus Pittsburgher Rachelle Rak shines in a featured role as a show girl named Tess. Yet, none of these performance come across with anything distinctive character-wise. 

Director/choreographer Sergio Trujillo has staged the story-telling moments with natural clarity;they all flow seamlessly. And as for the dancing, wow!

You have only until the 6:30 pm performance, Sunday,January 6th to catch this before it's off and stomping in other cities. 

Flashdance the Musical is at Heinz Hall, downtown. 412/392-4900 or 412/456-1390 and

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