Writer: Tom Hedley and Robert Cary
Director: Hannah Chissick
Reviewer: Cathy Swaby
The vibrancy, passion and rhythm of the 1980s have once again come to UK audiences in the musical production of Flashdance; a stomping show of dazzling lights, lycra and legwarmers.
For those who love the original 1983 film, nostalgically remember the decade, or are lovers of films and musicals such as Dirty Dancing, Grease, Footloose and Fame, Flashdance is a spectacular visual portrayal of finding success and that feeling. It encompasses the classic storyline of small town outsider comes good, living the dream despite all odds, and boy meets girl, appealing to audiences of all ages.
The perfectly cast Joanne Clifton, 2015’s Strictly Come Dancing winner, is mesmerising as the alluring, sassy central character Alex Owens. Clifton has everything it takes to pull off this role- she can sing, dance and act and has an aesthetic about her which is both beautiful and ordinary. Alex is a tomboyish pipe-fitter by day, dancer by night, living as an aspirational girl in a man’s world. She dreams of getting into dance school and Flashdance is a simple but timeless story of striving to live the life that you dream of.
Boy-band A1’s Ben Adams, plays the uptown boy Nick Hurley, Owens’s love interest, and is not so striking in this production but is perhaps downplayed in order to allow Owens to shine. Adams bleats out the musical’s hits as though he is in the auditions of X Factor, while Clifton manages to override the buzzing 80s themes, played by musical director George Carter’s band from below the stage, with her stunning power ballad voice.
It is the supportive characters of Gloria (Hollie-Ann Lowe), Kiki (Sia Dauda) and Tess (Demmileigh Foster), Alex’s friends, who glitzily assist in holding our leading lady at the forefront of the story. Their reverberating dance moves and raunchy burlesque-like costumes help to portray some more off the rails moments and their lives are depicted alongside Alex as they too dream of brighter futures.
Gloria’s sadder moments are excellently played by Lowe, and it is this which gives the storyline a further, deeper meaning alongside the formulaic “it’ll all come good” 80s chick flick cliché. Matriarch Hannah’s personality gives the storyline a more wholesome backdrop, taking care of Alex and nurturing her dream of being a dancer, and is played by the ethereal Carol Ball. Hannah’s character is an austere reminder that Alex’s life is really only just beginning.
We are soon thrown back into the protective arms of hedonistic 80s cheese, however, and allowed to escape the real world with Alex’s climactic audition where we witness one of the most famous scenes from the 80s’ silver screen. Clifton’s dance routine is brilliantly choreographed and the tracksuit-wearing supporting dancers give it the entire colour and kick-start needed to take us back in time.
There is little dialogue throughout but the live soundtrack allows the narrative to flow, and for those who have not before seen the movie version the show stands on its own 2 dancing feet. With smash hits such as Maniac, I Love Rock and Rolland, of course, the Flashdance theme tune What a Feeling, Carter’s band stir up a regular burst of adrenaline.
The audience is encouraged to cavort in the aisles, or at least in their seats, and weekend theatregoers in particular, would no doubt relish the opportunity to crimp their hair, adorn their neon wristbands and dance all through the night. Flashdance is comfortably cheesy whilst being fantastic, leaving the crowd feeling a little bit in love with Clifton and wanting more of the same.
Runs until 14th April 2018 | Image: Brian Hartley