It's a bit disconcerting when you see a play or musical that's set in an era you lived through. Kind of makes you feel a little older than you'd like to feel. In this case, it's the midwest premier of Flashdance The Musical. I remember when director Adrian Lyne's film came out in 1983, and it was at a time when I was purchasing lots of cassettes (remember them?). So, I'm very familiar with the tunes that made up that soundtrack, and it's a little bit weird for me to be sitting through a new musical version of that movie. In some ways, it has a perfect plot for a musical, but unfortunately the characterizations are just too thin, and the musical itself too long, to be completely successful.
The plot (book by Tom Hedley and Robert Cary) isn't all that different from the original film (screenplay by Joe Eszterhaus and Hedley), but there's been a lot of new music added (music by Robbie Roth and lyrics by Cary and Roth). Alex Owens is still a steeltown girl, who spends her days as a welder, and her nights as a stripper at a cabaret club. She still has aspirations of becoming a classical dancer, and in place of the creepy older owner of the steel mill, we get Nick Hurley, a much younger heir, who may be able to make her dream come true.
Emily Padgett does good work here as Alex. She has the all the right moves that could propel her career in another direction, and the first act ends with her auditioning for a prestigious dance school. She's nicely matched with Matthew Hydzik who portrays the heir to the steel mill fortune. But, the fact is that the steel industry was on its last legs when this show is set. So, their romance, as sparkling as it seems, would probably fall on hard times once the bleak reality of the actual business set in.
There is a lot to like about this show. The dance numbers are energetic, running the gamut of style, even if some of those styles seem a bit modern for a show set in the 1980's. The music also tries to echo the feel and sound of that era, and for the most part they're tuneful and accurate. The problem is that there are just too many of them (15 in the first act), and far too many reprises, although they add more to the characterizations than the book does.
Sergio Trujillo's direction is pretty good, but his choreography is better. The pace of the show drags a bit too much, making the already long running time seem even longer. What really makes this show entertaining is the projection design by Peter Nigrini. These are used in smart fashion to allow this show to play on small stages with little concession. Paul Tazewell's costumes conjure up a time some would prefer be forgotten, with it's abundance of legwarmers and tops that fall off one shoulder.
Flashdance The Musical is a mixed bag, full of life, but bloated and unnecessary. It continues at the Peabody Opera House through January 13, 2013.
My review is late in arriving due to illness.