By Gary Murray
Starring Jillian Mueller and Matthew Hydzik
Book by Tom Hedley and Robert Cary
Music by Robbie Roth
Lyrics by Robert Cary and Robbie Roth
Directed and Choreographed by Sergio Trujillo
More and more, one has to wonder if there are any original ideas left for musical theater. Producers have turned old movie after old movie into fodder for the Great White Way. This year we have gotten Sister Act and Pricilla Queen of the Dessert. Over the years, some of the others have been everything from The Producers to The Wedding Singer to 9 to 5. The latest to go down this road of retread is Flashdance—The Musical. It plays as part of the Summer Musical Series at Fair Park.
The stage work is basically a retread of the original 1983 film. The story is of Alex (Jillian Mueller). She is a young woman who works as a welder during the day and a flash dancer at night. Alex has a dream to attend the Shipley Academy, a prestigious dance conservatory. She’s been on her own for years. Alex is stubborn and wants to make it on her merits not because of any help. The story is her struggle to pass the audition.
The stage portal is covered with images from MTV in the 1980s. Then there is projection of a rocket ship going off, basically the original image from the MTV network. This is going to be a play that established the specific era with solid imaging. But it does not take any easy shots with the fashions of the time.
The first number is “Steeltown Sky” and it establishes our two leads. Nick, the love story lead and newest boss, is played by Matthew Hydzik. He has a fine, strong voice and comes off as a passable romantic leading man. There are a few moments where he shows off his voice, but this is a very female centric story. The ladies of the cast get most of the singing roles.
The most touching moment of the entire work happens in Act I between Jillian Mueller and her mentor played by Jo Ann Cunningham. We find out that the old woman has always believed that Alex has the talent to be a star. They sing a duet that incorporates a little soft shoe. It is simple and sweet yet heartfelt.
At the club called Harry’s, there is a trio of other flash dancers. All are proud of the fact that they do not take it all off. During the number “Put it on” they tempt and tease while staying clothed. This is a cleaver and slightly erotic turn.
Matthew and the male chorus sing a song about his lament of failing to get a date with Alex. The song is called “Justice” and it showcases the talent of the men of Flashdance. They sing tightly proving that they needed more moments in the play.
Act One ends with the reprise of Maniac with Alex and that iconic image of the water cascading down and around her body. Doing a cinematic moment on stage is a risky venture and to be honest, they just don’t pull it off very well. It’s not Singing in the Rain.
The biggest spark of the entire production comes from Kelly Felthous as Gloria. She has a strong, pure voice that fills every inch of the Music Hall stage. Her duet with David R. Gordon shows a massive degree of talent and stage presence. In Act II she sings the standard “Gloria” and turns it into the highlight of the entire show. This is a massively talented young lady who deserves a better showcase of her talents.
There are some problems with the production. The entire play hinges on the giant scene at the end of Act Two. While Jillian Mueller is a fantastic dancer, the actual dance she does looks a bit silly in 2013. Much like The Charleston or The Frug, it is a dance that is very much of its time and not a part of the 21st century. Some of the moves are painfully dated.
Although there is no nudity in the entire work, the women strut around in almost next to nothing. This is a very erotic work and not meant for children. The film did receive an R rating by the MPAA and the play runs close to that rating in both visual images and language.
This truly is much more of a dancing show than a singing show. The entire cast is amazing at the acrobatics and ballet required to tell the tale. It takes a great deal of athletic skills to perform all the acts on stage that the ensemble must be exhausted by the time the final bows take place.
The staging looks much more like Rent or American Idiot. It is modern, dirty and stylistically real. The melding of video images and stage props is impressive, suggesting a very wide world.
In the end, Flashdance—The Musical is very much a mixed bag of a performance. There are some very passionate performers working overtime on a work that is mediocre at best.