Check it out
What: “Flashdance — The Musical”
Where: Community Center Theater, 1301 L St., Sacramento
When: 8 p.m. Friday, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday
Info: Visit www.tickets.com or call 916-808-5181
It’s the new thing on Broadway. Instead of writing original musicals like Rodgers and Hammerstein, they are turning hit films into musicals: “Shrek, the Musical,” “Elf, the Musical,” “Legally Blonde, the Musical,” “Little Women, the Musical.”
As the movies already have a following, there is no need to come up with a new plot line, but just adapt what is already there and add appropriate music. Some have been more successful than others.
Now, we have “Flashdance — The Musical,” currently at the Sacramento Community Center Theatre until Sunday. This is the stage adaptation of the 1983 hit film that catapulted Jennifer Beals to stardom and made leg warmers a trendy fashion statement.
While this production has been touring the country, it has not yet made it to Broadway, though a “creatively reworked production” has it sights set on the Big Apple in the foreseeable future.
The show opens with a dynamite dance number set in a Pittsburgh steel mill, the energy of which is displayed not only in the physicality of all of the muscular dancers, but in the multi-media set, which consists of large moving walls and combines projected photos, video and lighting effects to create an always-changing scene.
The combined scenic design by Klara Zieglerova, lighting design by Howell Binkley and projection design by Peter Nigrine work well in this production and make the whole thing look very plush with a minimum of actual set pieces.
It’s the story of Alex Owens (Jillian Mueller), welder by day, dancer by night, who dreams of acceptance into the local dance academy and becoming a real dancer. The thing about Alex is that she is self-taught and has all the moves, but they are unrefined and unfocused. She has her own dance voice, but realizes that if she is to make dance her profession she needs the discipline of rigorous training by dance professionals.
This works well for Mueller, who is obviously a very good dancer, though she doesn’t seem to be at the level of the rest of the cast. Her solo numbers take your breath away, but there is a certain “something” lacking when she dances with the others, which may or may not be what the director intended for Alex, the character.
The choreography of director Sergio Trujillo carries this show, with elements of Jazzercise, hip-hop, disco and ballet all wrapped up in a relentlessly energetic score filled with forgettable tunes, other than “What a Feeling” and “Maniac,” from the original film.
Corey Mach is Nick Hurley, heir to the steelworks, who has an eye for Alex. Unlike the older, divorced Nick of the movie, Mach is single and closer to Alex in age, which makes their attraction to each other more believable. Nick wants to help Alex achieve her dream, but the scrappy dancer wants to do it on her own and his surreptitious assistance causes a rift in their relationship.
The sub-plot concerns Alex’s best friend Gloria (Ginna Claire Mason), also a dancer without Alex’s talent, who sells out to the evil C.C. (Christian Whelan), who runs the strip joint that is threatening to put Club Hair (where Alex dances) out of business. Her boyfriend Jimmy (David R. Gordon) is a would-be stand up comic whose act needs a bit of honing.
In small but impressive roles are the dancers of Club Hair (DeQuina Moore and Alison Ewing), who each get a chance to shine in solos (Moore in “Manhunt” and Ewing in “I Love Rock ‘N’ Roll.”)
Alex’s mentor, Hannah (Madeleine Doherty) is a sympathetic character who pushes Alex to go for her dreams and then makes it possible for her to do so.
This show is a big spectacle show, short on musicality (other than the relentless beat and indecipherable lyrics) but long on appearance. There is enough energetic dancing to satisfy the most discerning “So You Think You Can Dance” fan and the beat goes on and on.
I’m not sure how this show would fare on Broadway, but judging by the continuous screams and shrieks of the fans, I suspect it has a long life as a traveling show. And even with the few shortcomings, it’s a darn entertaining evening!