Yesterday, March 4, marked the start of the "Flashdance" run at Milwaukee's Marcus Center in celebration of the film's 30th anniversary. A near full house welcomed the movie-turned-musical and roared with applause at the first sight of leading lady Sydney Morton as welder/dancer Alex Owens. Certainly part of the hype surrounding the show was due to an audience of the movie fans. Those fans did not leave disappointed as there were several similarities and nods to the film, however there were also differences that both help and harm the musical theater production.
Fans of the 1983 film or those aware of the iconic scenes will recognize several nods to the film and replicated lines and scenes. Morton not only looks like Jennifer Beals, but proves herself a very talented dancing in replicating many of the original moves. Similarly, the musical production includes hit songs such as "Maniac", "What A Feeling", and "I Love Rock 'N' Roll," along with several original compositions.
In addition to these film similarities, several elements and plot points supplemented the original material to extend and adapt the story to the stage. In a recent interview with Sydney Morton, she said that, "The musical flushes out the characters a whole lot more." This is certainly the case with Alex's love interest Nick Hurley (Corey Mach) and her friends Tess (Alison Ewing), Kiki (DeQuina Moore), and Gloria (Ginna Claire Mason). Alex's dance coworkers, Tess and Kiki, in particular dazzle the audience with their combined spirit, humor, and flair. And while Nick Hurley's character drops an ex-wife in the stage adaptation, he gains so much more in terms of character development and paring with Alex's character, an essential element necessary to the adaptation.
Other additions include a focus on MTV and the interspersed worlds of dance in Alex's life. Several dream-like sequences emphasize the importance and idealism in Alex's desire to join Shipley Dance Academy. The entire production places much more focus on the life and struggles of a dancer, while adding more dancing scenes. As Morton said,
It's kind of a dream role if you're a dancer and you have dealt with any kind of opposition or felt like you couldn't make it for whatever reason and I think dance is inherently difficult so we've all dealt with that at one point. I definitely identify with this character so it's like getting to tell a dancer's story and we don't really get to do that very often.
However, while the added dancing, flushed characters, and dream-like sequences add to the production, there are a number of things that took away from it. It makes perfect sense that "Flashdance" be a show centered around dance, and there is no disputing the quantity and quality of dance numbers in the production, but this sometimes came at the cost of the acting and singing. This is not to say that the performers couldn't act or sing, but they were clearly primarily dancers. This impression could partially be due to the quality of the original songs. The new songs are very hit-or-miss, with songs like "Put it On" being a definite highlight, and Ginna Claire Mason's range and shift in character pushing "Chameleon Girls" to the top of the list.
Much like the 1983 film, "Flashdance - The Musical" is geared towards adult audiences due to language and adult content. "Flashdance" runs now through 9 and tickets are available online or by calling (414)273-7206. For more information, please visit http://www.marcuscenter.org/show/flashdance-the-musical/.