July 10--The producers of "Flashdance the Musical" have more than once expressed a desire to take their stage show to Broadway, but they may want to rethink their take on the 1983 pop-schlock movie that briefly made Jennifer Beals a star.
The current hot ticket on Broadway is "Kinky Boots," which with humor and heart exploits the same basic template. There's a girl/guy protagonist who just wants to express her/himself as a performer. There's a factory-owner's son who needs to prove himself. There's a gaggle of eccentric supporting characters. And in the end the protagonist triumphantly sheds convention and finds the freedom to be true to her/himself.
In the case of "Flashdance," that means that blue-collar Alex Owens, a sexy welder by day, is accepted into a prestigious dance academy by performing a three-minute exhibition of disco moves with a bit of moonwalking thrown in for good measure.
Characters belting out narcissistic anthems about how they're going to put themselves out there and try for the brass ring have become a cliche of contemporary musicals. "Flashdance" has that, and it stumbles on another familiar obstacle: In adapting a 90-minute movie into a show that clocks in at more than two hours, the creators burden the viewer with too much story and characters we simply couldn't care less about.
Alex (Jillian Mueller), in addition to her welding gig, dances at a sort of PG-rated nightclub where the dancers get to keep their outfits on, unlike that sleazy R-rated club down the street run by the reptilian C.C. (Christian Whelan).
Alex's fellow dancers -- Kiki (DeQuina Moore) and Tess (on Tuesday played by understudy Haley Hannah, an Overland Park native) -- gyrate away to diminishing crowds as their gruff but sympathetic boss, Harry (Matthew Henerson), worries about what to do. Another dancer, Gloria (Kelly Felthous), has naive dreams of making it big and falls under the druggy influence of C.C.
Alex, meanwhile, has caught the eye of young Nick Hurley (Matthew Hydzik), heir apparent to the steel mill where she works. She doesn't realize who he is at first but quickly resents his wealth and status when she does. Still, Nick seems like a decent sort, fighting his grandfather and the board over staff cuts. The message here seems to be that plutocrats are people too.
Nick, like so many handsome young love interests in musicals, is about as interesting as a department store mannequin. Any time spent with him nudges us closer to the aesthetic abyss.
This show retains the iconic pop tunes from the film -- "Maniac," "Gloria," "What a Feeling," "Manhunt" and "I Love Rock & Roll" -- and has a slew of new ones by Robbie Roth and Robert Cary. Some of them are pretty good. "Put It On," sung by Alex, Tess, Kiki and Gloria, is an infectious Motown-ish toe-tapper, and "Chameleon Girls," performed by the debased dancers in C.C.'s club, is sensuous and atmospheric.
Mueller is an impressive dancer but never really sells us on Alex as a blue-collar character. At the Tuesday night show, Moore and Hannah delivered crisp comic performances as Kiki and Tess and Felthous was memorable as Gloria. Moore's performance of "Manhunt" is a highlight.
Director/choreographer Sergio Trujillo keeps the action moving at a nice clip. The dances are intense, sometimes mechanistic, but rarely predictable.
To reach Robert Trussell, call 816-234-4765 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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