News Column

What a feeling: 'Flashdance the Musical' comes to Starlight Theatre

July 3, 2013

YellowBrix

July 03--'Flashdance the Musical" may eventually find its way to Broadway, but not before Starlight audiences get a chance to check it out.

The adaptation of the 1983 cult movie about an aspiring dancer who works as a welder by day and an exotic dancer by night had been slated to open in New York next month, but the producers have put off a Broadway premiere until further notice.

The show is directed and choreographed by Sergio Trujillo (Starlight audiences saw his work last summer in the touring productions of "Memphis" and "The Addams Family") and includes all the hit songs from the movie plus a bunch more by Robbie Roth and Robert Cary. The tour features Jillian Mueller, who performed in the national tours of "Memphis" and "American Idiot," as Alex.

The show may not be suitable for all ages. Starlight suggests parental guidance.

"Flashdance" opens Tuesday and runs through July 14. Call 816-363-7827 or go to kcstarlight.com.

Upcoming season features shows old and new

The Coterie, the venerable young-audience theater that operates out of its longtime home on the first floor of Crown Center, will mark its 35th anniversary with a 2013-14 season that includes three commissioned world premieres and two existing shows revamped especially for younger viewers.

Work has already begun on the new season. Last week artistic director Jeff Church was workshopping "Dracula: The Journal of Jonathan Harker," a one-actor show that will feature Zachary Andrews, a 2011 graduate of the UMKC professional training program. Andrews was in town for readings and discussions while Church looked for opportunities to make minor cuts that would keep the performance to about 60 minutes.

Church said Jim Helsinger's play follows the Bram Stoker novel more closely than most stage or movie versions of the classic vampire tale. The book is an epistolary tale related through letters, journal entries, ship's logs and phonograph transcriptions, which allows the actor to portray multiple characters with numerous accents.

The three-day workshop gives Andrews a jump on the material, according to Church, so "he knows exactly where we're headed with it conceptually. That way he can go ahead and start memorizing and get his work done."

Although the play is normally performed in two acts, Church said when Andrews read it straight through the running time was slightly more than an hour.

"So we think there are very few edits we'll actually have to do," Church said.

The show is slated as the second production of the season and will run Oct. 9-27.

The rest of the season breaks down this way:

-- "Red Badge Variations," Sept. 17-Oct. 5. This world premiere by Melissa Cooper, commissioned by the Coterie and directed by Kyle Hatley, takes as its point of departure Stephen Crane's classic novel "The Red Badge of Courage" and moves the action from the American Civil War to Afghanistan.

The show depicts five young American soldiers deployed to a remote military outpost for a year. Logan Black, an Army veteran who served in Iraq and is now in the University of Missouri-Kansas City's graduate acting program, is acting as an adviser to the production.

"He's a soldier turned actor," Church said. "He and his dog were bomb sniffers. ... How rare that we have someone who thinks like an actor but knows what it is to be a solider."

-- "The Wiz," Nov. 12-Jan. 5. The Coterie staged this version of the Broadway musical as a summer production in 2011. Church said reprising it for the holidays will allow more people to see it. The show features a book by William F. Brown and Motownish music by Charlie Smalls and retells "The Wizard of Oz" through an African-American lens.

Church said he expects to reunite most of the principal actors, including Emily Shackelford as Dorothy, Brad Shaw as the Tin Man, Christopher Barksdale as the Cowardly Lion and Tosin Morohunfola as the Scarecrow.

-- "Afflicted: Daughters of Salem," Jan. 28-Feb. 23. This is another world premiere, commissioned by the Coterie and written by Laurie Brooks, whose work has been produced by the theater repeatedly through the years. Church described the play as a sort of feminist alternative to Arthur Miller's "The Crucible" by focusing on the girls who spread the rumors and gave false testimony that led to the execution of innocent people during the Salem Witch Trials.

"For me that's always been the most interesting part of 'The Crucible.'" Church said. "What is the unseen story? We never know what happened with those young girls. Who made them accuse people? What was their motivation?"

This show will be a co-production with the UMKC Theatre Department.

-- "Greek Mythology: I Was a Teenage Immortal," Feb. 25-March 9. This world-premiere musical with a book and lyrics by Jeff Carey and music by Jessica Jackson will play the Coterie for two weeks and tour middle and high schools from January through early April.

The story focuses on Sully, a girl who dresses in black, writes short, morbid poems and bites her nails. She connects with Derrick, who wants to start a band called the Immortals but can't find anyone who wants to play with him -- until a pantheon of Greek gods assembles at the high school auditorium.

A second show by Carey and Jackson, "Zeus on the Loose!," will tour elementary schools January through early April 2014.

-- "Schoolhouse Rock Live!," April 8-May 18. Director Ron Megee will reprise this award-winning musical that aims to teach history, grammar, math, science and government through clever songs.

-- 2014 Young Playwrights Festival, May 4, 2014. This annual event features script-in-hand readings from new plays written by teens from across the metro area who are members of the Coterie's Young Playwrights Roundtable.

-- "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang," June 17-Aug. 3. This show falls into another Coterie tradition: recalibrating Broadway musicals for young audiences. This will be the world premiere of a new version of the show, based on the Broadway production. The piece includes songs by Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman and a book by Jeremy Sams and Ray Roderick.

For season ticket information, go to thecoterie.org or call 816-474-6552.

To reach Robert Trussell, call 816-234-4765 or send email to rtrussell@kcstar.com.

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(c)2013 The Kansas City Star (Kansas City, Mo.)

Visit The Kansas City Star (Kansas City, Mo.) at www.kansascity.com

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