REVIEW: 'Flashdance The Musical'

Photo by Jeremy Daniel

—by Jessica Rine

A friend says, “I have tickets to see Flashdance The Musical.” Instantly conjured are images of leg warmers and dance montages; segments from the songs, “Maniac” and “What a Feeling” burst forth; oh yeah, and that scene where Jennifer Beals is doused with water on the dance floor. 

While Flashdance The Musical contains all of those things, this stage adaptation of the original 1983 film is not all high-thighed leotards and big hair. The show—on a national tour before eventually heading to Broadway—reveals a fun, showy and heartwarming blend of dance, song and over-the-top dialogue that only a spectacle musical can deliver.

Using only the basic skeleton of the original film, Tom Hedley (who wrote the original screenplay) and Robert Cary embellish on the characters and their stories, giving them depth and actual personalities, embodying the get-out-and-grab-it attitude and raw edginess of the era. 

The show follows Alex Owens, played by Jillian Mueller in Jennifer Beals’ dance shoes, as she navigates tough terrain through her jobs welding at a Pennsylvania steel mill and dancing at Harry’s bar, and feeding her passion for dance. Along the way, she finds love in the mill’s owner, Nick Hurley (played by Corey Mach), who encourages her to apply for an elite dance academy. The show explores Alex’s fears of accepting love and following her dreams. 

Mueller pours her soul out on that stage, following through every dance move with precision, singing every line with heart. She knows her character and she knows her craft. She plays Alex’s brass to the hilt, but also reveals her vulnerability through her love for dance.

Mach follows suit, as the pretty-boy boss’ son. Nick is instantly attracted to Alex and full of clumsy pick-up lines, but is also trying to find his place in the world. Mach hits his stride in the second half, when he can really show off his stunning vocals with new ballad-esque songs of love and self-discovery by Robert Cary and Robbie Roth. 

While Mueller and Mach are the main focus, the supporting cast almost steals the show with their strength: Alex’s best friend, Gloria (Ginna Claire Mason) is sweet and naïve, trying to follow her own dreams but getting lost on the wrong side of the track. The other dancers at Harry’s, Tess (Alison Ewing) and Kiki (DeQuina Moore), are hilarious as a dysfunctional performance family, but get to be all flash and pizzazz with numbers like “I Love Rock & Roll” and “Manhunt.” 

Comic relief comes from Alex’s main supporter, grouchy ex-dancer Hannah (Madeleine Doherty), and her nurse practitioner, Louise (Doreen Montalvo). Their verbal sparring is witty, and Hannah’s number about the crap dancers have to go through and how the body pays for it later is fun, spunky and full of piss and vinegar. 

The ensemble is small, but tight and passionate. They make up in enthusiasm and talent what they lack in numbers. The director, Sergio Trujillo, has faith in his tiny ensemble, and rightly so. They accept the challenge of multiple characters, costume changes and dance numbers, and deliver with accuracy and aplomb. 

The show still has some work to do before making its Broadway debut: Some of the numbers seem to be added just for kicks with no real thought to enhancing the plot. Also, the dance numbers are so expertly choreographed that some of the performers don’t know what to do in the more intimate moments—moments that are few and far between because the musical constantly pushes forward at breakneck speed with minimal pauses. 

Flashdance The Musical is a tribute to a cult classic, in many ways enhancing the memory of the original film. It’s definitely worth seeing, even if it’s just to see Mueller splayed out on a chair while water cascades from above onto her silhouette—reenacting the iconic film scene—at the end of the first act. 

Flashdance The Musical, Tuesday, February 4 through Sunday, February 9 at 8 p.m.; Thursday, Saturday and Sunday at 2 p.m.; $21-$88. California Musical Theatre presents Broadway Sacramento at the Community Center Theatre, 1301 L Street; (916) 808-5181;

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