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Theater Review (DC): ‘Flashdance The Musical’

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jillian_mueller_as_alex_owens_photo_by_jeremy_daniel

Jillian Mueller as Alex Owens, photo by Jeremy Daniel

Flashdance The Musical ends the Kennedy Center’s 2013 Broadway musical season on a high, fun note. Based on the classic 1983 movie, the show successfully recreates some of the film’s most iconic moments – yes, including the famous Water and Welding scenes. Popular songs like “Maniac,” “Love Is A Battlefield,” and “What a Feeling” from the film are supplemented with 16 original numbers. The choreography is some of the best and most energetic that I’ve seen in a show all year.

Jillian Mueller (national tours of Memphis and American Idiot) is amazing in the signature role of Alex Owens. She has a perfect mix of sass, vulnerability and dancing chops. She is a true triple threat who can belt ‘em out with the best of them while dancing a mile a minute without missing a step. This show rises and falls on her slender, talented shoulders.

Flashdance Cast, photo by Jeremy Daniel

Flashdance Cast, photo by Jeremy Daniel

There is an odd dichotomy going on, a strange mix of walking down memory lane and generic, modern Broadway. When the show works, it rocks hard; when it doesn’t I felt I would have liked it more if it wasn’t called Flashdance The Musical.

Most of the original tunes were solid but very generic Broadway fluff, and sometimes they didn’t feel like they fit with the staging and set design. We went through long four- and eight-song stretches before hitting a tune from the soundtrack. I found myself constantly anticipating and craving those familiar songs. When they did come they felt strangely out of place, and some of the arrangements seemed strange. The song “Gloria” went from being an energetic, upbeat pop track to a melancholy song used to showcase Alex’s friend Gloria’s life going out of control.

Jillian Mueller as Alex Owens and Matthew Hydzik as Nick, photo by Jeremy Daniel

Jillian Mueller as Alex Owens and Matthew Hydzik as Nick, photo by Jeremy Daniel

With a book by Tom Hedley and Robert Cary, music by Robbie Roth, and scenic design by Klara Zieglerova, the show is about a small-town girl who dreams of one day making it big as a dancer. Her dream starts with her getting into one of the top dancing schools in the country. The supporting cast includes Corey Mach as love interest Nick, whose family owns the steel mill where Alex works. Gianna Clair Mason plays Alex’s friend Gloria and Christian Whelan is sleazy club owner CC.

I wish they had gone the Rock of Ages approach and beefed up the score with more classic ’80s songs to really go for the nostalgia. Other than the opening graphic shot of the MTV logo superimposed over the curtain, the show is basically stripped of any references or nods to the decade the film took place in.

Jillian Mueller as Alex Owens photo by Jeremy Daneil

Jillian Mueller as Alex Owens, photo by Jeremy Daneil

From the stage design to the lighting and original music, it seems the producers really wanted to create something that’s “timeless” instead of a show set in the period Flashdance the movie took place in. While 85 percent of the show is fun, sometimes brilliant, and entertaining, it still feels like it could have been so much more.

Flashdance The Musical is playing at the Kennedy Center Eisenhower Theater until January 19, 2014 before moving on to Las Vegas and other stops. For more information, please visit the show’s website or Facebook page.

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About Michelle Alexandria