Book: Tom Hedley and Robert Carey
Music: Robbie Roth
Lyrics: Robert Carey and Robbie Roth
Director: Hannah Chissick
Reviewer: Clare White
In a simpler time of poodle perms and leg warmers, 80s dance films gave us many life lessons – that no one puts Baby in the corner, that we should hold out for a hero, and that ultimately love conquers all. (Thank you Dirty Dancing, Footloose, et al). However, it was Flashdance that taught us to take our passion and to make it happen.
Strictly Come Dancing pro dancer Joanne Clifton stars as Alex Owen, a welder by day and club dancer by night, who dreams of ditching the welding mask and becoming a professional performer. From the wrong side of town and with no formal training, her chance to get a foot in the door of the prestigious Shipley Dance Academy looks unlikely and things are complicated further when she falls for her boss Nick.
The original film was released in 1983, and as with a lot of movies from that time, has become something of a cult classic. It has transferred well to the stage, but there is no pretending that the plot is predictable and flimsy, and there is little depth to the characters. That said, there is plenty to enjoy – director Hannah Chissick and choreographer Matt Cole have taken the iconic scenes from the film and used them wisely – such as the famous water/chair routine, which is a real moment and brings Act I to a close.
A small, talented cast brings the energetic routines to life and a score which includes the big screen favourites – What A Feeling, Maniac and Gloria mixed with original 80s-inspired songs by Robbie Roth and Robert Cary works well. What doesn’t work well is the sound balance. The volume of the band is often just too loud against the vocals of those on stage. It’s a real shame, as what you do get to hear is really very good.
Leading lady Joanne Clifton gives a strong performance as Alex – delivering a feisty and smart character with a vulnerable side. As a former world ballroom champion, it goes without saying that Clifton’s dance skills are exceptional, but she also has an impressive voice. The pairing with former A1 boy bander Ben Adams as love interest Nick works well. They have a great natural chemistry, which particularly shines in their duets Here and Now and Hang On.
The simple staging has an industrial vibe, and is transformed from steel yard to nightclub and to dance studio thanks to versatile moveable staircases, clever lighting and digital images projected onto the walls.
There aren’t really any shocks along the way as Alex prepares for her dance school audition – happy endings all round. Despite the predictable storyline and sound issues, the cast makes this nostalgic ‘dream big, aim high’ production uplifting and entertaining. And let’s face it, the audience is there for those nostalgic 80s anthems, and needs little encouragement to get to their feet for a crowd-pleasing What A Feeling finale.
Runs until 9 December 2017 | Image: Brian Hartley