Our Score: 2.5 out of 5 stars
I’ve never seen the 1983 film “Flashdance.” I wasn’t even sure what the story was about as I strolled to my seat to watch the musical production, appropriately titled, “Flashdance: The Musical”. The only thing I knew about the film was that it featured the song “Maniac” as well as the famous and steamy scene featuring a 20-year-old Jennifer Beals dousing herself in water. After watching “Flashdance: The Musical” I think I’ll stick with that sultry movie image and the few musical numbers from the stage show that really stuck out.
It’s not that the story is terrible. It’s that nothing feels spectacular about it. Alex Owens (Jillian Mueller) toughs it out with other men at a steel mill during the day, but at night she flashdances at Harry’s Bar. She works alongside some sassy ladies by the names of Kiki (Dequina Moore), Gloria (Kelly Felthous) and Tess (Katie Webber). One day at the steel mill she meets the boss’s grandson, Nick Hurley (Matthew Hydzik). He immediately takes a liking to her, but she’s not interested. She’s far more entranced by the Shipley Academy, where professional dancing dreams are fulfilled. The rest of the story is fairly predictable. That’s not necessarily a bad thing since the theme of the plot is about pursuing your dreams and at times realizing what’s most important in your life. The problem lies in some of the unnecessary side plots. One about the strip club owner, C.C. (Christian Whelan), who’s trying to lure Harry’s women to his establishment down the street. Another about the falling out between Gloria and her boyfriend Jimmy (David R. Gordon). Of course I get the impression people aren’t there for the supposed drama unfolding on stage. I assume they’re in attendance to relive the decade that brought us new wave, hip hop and the popularization of hard rock.
The music does a fantastic job at blending different genres of 80’s music, accompanied by some entertaining dance numbers. Sadly not all songs are like this. Some are just dry ballads or poorly written songs. The musical really succeeds when background sets are constantly changing, when an ensemble of dancers and singers flow in and burst with excitement. The fun is poured on when costume changes occur. They’re quick and incredibly sexy. It’s frustrating when songs like “Steeltown Sky”, “Manhunt” and “Chameleon Girls”, are followed with numbers that trip and fall flat like “Just Out of Reach”, “Remember Me” and “Where I Belong”. It’s not that the actors in this did a poor job; many were fantastic and showed great vocal range. It’s just that the lyrics were confining and didn’t give the performers room to grow. Veteran stage actress Jo Ann Cunningham, who plays Hannah, Alex’s mentor, is given her own song, but the balance between lyrics and music seemed incredibly wobbly.
All the right pieces are here, except a good script and solid set of songs. At one point I wondered if maybe this was a movie that never really needed a stage adaptation. But maybe I’m missing something. The 80’s was when female artists like Whitney Houston and Madonna shined and really helped pave the way for other musicians. Also it was a continuing and growing age of women in the workplace. I grew up in the 90’s. I watched the birth and death of music videos on TV. Grunge, punk rock and gangsta rap became mainstream. It’s hard for me to feel nostalgic or relate to the show being put on. So if you’re a Generation X child or enjoyed the 80’s, you’ll enjoy this musical. But if you’re a product of the 90’s like me, you’ll be dreading the day when they make “Spice World: The Musical”
The show is currently running in Kansas City through July 14th. The current tour continues into next year. The next three stops are:
Chicago — August 6th-18th
Memphis — September 17th-22nd
Indianapolis — October 1st-6th
A complete list of tour dates can be found at: www.flashdancethemusical.com