“Flashdance The Musical” is one of those stories you know.
Even if you’ve never seen the 1983 Jennifer Beals hit movie that the new musical is based on, you know the story, and you know every beat in that story. Think of a fairy tale where a soulful, scruffy heroine meets a soulful, single Prince Charming and they eventually live happily ever after. It’s classic. It’s also inoffensive and often entertaining when done well, which is what the high-energy national touring show delivers at the Community Center Theater.
The plot basically follows the outline of director Adrian Lyne’s film, which brought a visceral visual and editing sensibility to American eyes. Lyne was part of a British invasion of directors including Ridley Scott (“Blade Runner”) and Alan Parker (“Fame”) who were schooled in commercials. What the films lacked in directorial personality, they made up for with efficiently crafted storytelling. Made in the style of MTV videos, which were just beginning to take hold, “Flashdance” rode the pulse of songs such as “Maniac” and the Academy Award-winning “Flashdance ... What a Feeling,” composed by Giorgio Moroder for the film and performed by Irene Cara.
Living in blue-collar suburban Pennsylvania in the early ’80s, our “Flashdance” heroine is the incredibly hard-working Alex Owens (Jillian Mueller). Alex aspires to attend ballet school, but worries she’s too raw for that type of refined artistry.
Mueller’s an insistent dancing-singing dynamo throughout, and her drive is impossible to be denied. She’s the engine that powers the musical through its many familiar paces, and she forces you to care about the plot’s forgone conclusions.
Alex is a sexy apprentice welder who’s also a featured club dancer at night (I told you she’s hard-working). It’s not quite “that” kind of dancing. They might take off a little clothing here and there, but they also put something back on because they’re more about the art of dance than the art of seduction. This is the kind of classy, artistic club dancing you apparently find throughout blue-collar towns in Pennsylvania. However, the club’s popularity is being challenged by a competitor down the street, where the dancing isn’t as artistic, and the sleazy owner requires the women working there do more than just dance. For some reason, many of the customers are going there now.
At the steel mill, layoffs are looming and the young scion of the ownership family has been brought in to right the sinking ship. Corey Mach’s Nick Hurley is the silver-spoon antithesis of the gritty workers at his grandfather’s mill but he’s a good guy. Nick wants to fit in, and when he sees Alex at work, he knows what he wants in life.
Nick isn’t the type of guy Alex dates, though, being that he’s the well-scrubbed boss and all. But Nick won’t be denied.
There’s a lot of “follow your dream” talk in “Flashdance The Musical.” In songs written for the stage production such as “It’s All in Reach,” “Here And Now,” “My Turn” and “Let Go,” there are lyrics like “I gotta put myself out there, I gotta know I tried,” as characters yearn to escape Pennsylvania. The original songs aren’t particularly memorable, and by the end you feel as if there’s been one too many “I’m gonna go for it” power ballads.
The performers are all game, though, and the leads get terrific support from DeQuina Moore and Alison Ewing as Kiki and Tess, the two veteran dancers at the club who mentor Alex. Ginna Claire Mason, as Alex’s wayward friend, Gloria, and David R. Gordon as Gloria’s luckless, would-be comic boyfriend, Jimmy, also make solid contributions.
Broadway veteran director-choreographer Sergio Trujillo gives the dances an appropriate, flashy creativity, and the longish show always maintains an affable approachability. The most effective sequences are Alex hanging with street dancers, as we see her assimilating influences for her own athletic routines, and then juxtaposing her style and the classically trained dancing she dreams of doing.
Tom Hedley, who penned the story for the movie screenplay, wrote the musical’s book with Robert Cary. The new songs, written with Robbie Roth, can’t compete with the movie’s hit-filled soundtrack.
I came out of the theater humming Joan Jett’s “I Love Rock ’n’ Roll,” which just goes to show that the classics do endure.
Call The Bee’s Marcus Crowder, (916) 321-1120. Follow him on Twitter @marcuscrowder.