Flashdance (Review)

Lively choreography spices up an otherwise bland production

The philosophy picked up by Flashdance: The Musical’s welder/wanna-be-dancer Alex (Jillian Mueller) from her mentor is that trying and falling is better than not trying at all. That mindset seems to have guided the folks involved in translating this popular 1983 movie into a stage show with hopes of a Broadway run. Its touring production is still trying, including its current stop at Cincinnati’s Aronoff Center. And it does have its moments, mostly when the energetic cast is dancing.

Sergio Trujillo’s aerobic choreography, inspired by the film, is entertaining, recreating the “flash” of MTV (clips of music videos are arrayed on the stage curtain pre-show). Mueller is one of those triple-threats that musical theater fans love: She sings, she dances and she acts. Of course, Flashdance’s new music (16 unremarkable songs have been added) isn’t terribly memorable, and the role she’s playing is pretty shallow. But good golly, Mueller can move — which she does, from the show’s thumping prologue as she absorbs moves from street performers straight through Alex’s iconic, in-your-face dance audition at a Pittsburgh ballet academy.

Along the way she gets to be feisty, sexy (yes, she’s wearing that slouchy sweatshirt and not much else), fearful, anxious and caught up in an unlikely romance with the heir to the steel mill (Corey Mach). If this sounds like Cinderella and Prince Charming, well, it is. In fact, the show is populated with a crowd of predictable characters. Hardworking bar owner Harry (Matthew Henerson) berates his hapless nephew Jimmy (David R. Gordon, who gets some juice in Act II). Alex’s stern dance mentor (Jo Ann Cunningham) and two rough-and-tumble dancers with hearts of gold (Alison Ewing, DeQuina Moore) give her inspiration. Ginna Claire Mason is Alex’s friend “Gloria” (setting up yet another’80s Rock tune, plucked from the film), an innocent dancer who aspires to be another Madonna, tempted away to a nearby strip joint by its sleazy owner (Christian Whelan).

If this sounds like too many stories, well, that’s Flashdance’s fundamental problem — too many characters, too much bland music and simply too long. If you recall liking the film, you might enjoy this. But by the time you get home, I bet what you’ll remember is merely the moments that mimic the movie.

FLASHDANCE, presented by Broadway in Cincinnati, continues through Sunday, Nov. 10.

Rick Pender

RICK PENDER has written about theater for CityBeat since its first issues in 1994. Before that he wrote for EveryBody’s News. From 1998 to 2006 he was CityBeat’s arts & entertainment editor. Retired from a long career in public relations, he’s still a local arts fan, providing readers (and public radio listeners)...
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