In another attempt to cash-in on Gen Xers looking to relive their glory days, the iconic Jennifer Beals movie from the 80s gets a musical stage makeover with Flashdance the Musical.
[pullquote]Visually this show is a knock-out, but it was also one the biggest downers of the night when Alex escaped her iconic dance without a single drop of water spilled. Still, the movable set pieces from designer Klara Zieglerova are stunning, especially when used in conjunction with Peter Nigrini’s projections.[/pullquote]Stretching the musical to a bloated 2 ½ hours with intermission (the film had the good sense to stick to 90 minutes), it can’t sustain itself with the 18 new unremarkable songs added to the movie’s songs, that everyone in the theatre quite clearly came to hear last night. There is “Maniac”, “I Love Rock ‘N’ Roll”, “Manhunt”, and of course “What a Feeling”, but none of them have the same impact of their original versions. And poor Laura Branigan, one doubts she would have ever expected “Gloria” to get the treatment it does here.
In pushing the show way past its source material’s run-time, book writers Tom Hedley and Robert Cary look to some of the other characters for sub-plots. Even Nick Hurley gets his own broader storyline, but it all adds up to nothing. This is a story about Alex, a young dancer daring to dream and it loses its heart by trying to pump some of her blood into its other characters. One of the biggest is giving Hannah more time in the spotlight, but here she becomes a caricature, an unnecessary comedic element; some of the best moments in the film came from Lilia Skala’s understated and stately portrayal of Alex’s mentor.
Despite its attempts to drag itself out to give audiences their money’s worth (top prices are $110+), there were some nice individual performances, although no triple-threats.
Adam Rennie as Nick Hurley has one of the best voices of the night, but he is all over the place when it comes to acting; the QE is a big house, but Rennie (and others in the cast) play it so big sometimes you could probably see them all the way to the moon. He does a good job hiding his Aussie accent though.
Karli Dinardo has lots of spunk and can act, but I never felt the vitality and desire in her dance, and in a show about dance that is problematic. Her voice is decent, but only when it stays in her lower registers. She has all the moves, but there is a passion that never seems to quite make her quest to be a dancer believable. In the film, Jennifer Beals had body doubles doing all her dancing so one at least must give Dinardo credit for doing it all herself.
Surprisingly it was Jacob Tischler’s performance as short-order cook and comic-wannabe Jimmy (Richie in the film) that stood out. His “Where I Belong” in act two is one of the few memorable new songs. Thankfully Hedley and Cary left out the Polack jokes; well okay, there is one.
Director and choreographer Sergio Trujillo mixes things up in the dance department to keep it interesting. With everything from ballet to hip-hop to breakdance, the show is awash with styles that transcend the 80s, but even in the bigger production numbers the cast always appears to be lacking in energy. By the time the “Maniac” reprise came in act one, they seemed exhausted. My guest at opening wondered if the cast found the stage too small as they always seemed to be just a tiny bit hesitant.
Visually though this show is a knock-out, but it was also one the biggest downers of the night when Alex escaped her iconic dance without a single drop of water spilled. Still, the movable set pieces from designer Klara Zieglerova are stunning in conjunction with Peter Nigrini’s projections.
Even Vancouver audiences, always at-the-ready for a standing ovation when these types of shows roll into town, were more subdued than normal on opening night. Given the hoots and hollers when the songs from the movie would begin, it was evident the Gen-Xers were there to relive their glory days, legwarmers and all. I’m pretty sure they left as disappointed as me.
Flashdance The Musical. Book by Tom Hedley and Robert Cary. Music by Robbie Roth. Lyrics by Robert Cary and Robbie Roth. Directed by Sergio Trujillo. A Broadway Across Canada presentation. On stage at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre until November 16.