It’s astonishing to think that 1983’s Flashdance The Movie, took over $100 million at the box office. That level of success, coupled with the fact that nostalgia for the 80s sells (as evidenced by never-ending tours of Dirty Dancing and shows such as Fame, Footloose, 9 to 5 and The Wedding Singer), means it’s no surprise that it has resurfaced, in a shiny new production for 2017.
Unlike the frothy film, with its flimsy, escapist storyline and scenes that play like a series of 1980s MTV music videos, the musical pads out the simplistic screenplay with numerous sub-plots in order to add some depth and grit (pole-dancing clubs, shattered dreams of stardom, drug abuse…)
Alex(andra) Owens (Joanne Clifton), welder by day, exotic dancer at Harry’s Bar by night, longs to pursue her dream of becoming a trained, professional dancer. In her day job at the steelworks she catches the eye of Nick Hurley (Ben Adams), the son of the mill owner. Romance, inevitably ensues, as do a series of somewhat predictable hurdles until this working class gal does good.
The plot is similar to British classic Billy Elliot that followed a few years later (only this time done with a lot more class). There’s the promise of a rousing story of working class, female empowerment here, but it’s all a bit wishy-washy to be inspirational.
Joanne Clifton is casting gold – a national favourite from her stint in Strictly Come Dancing and a member of a British dancing family dynasty. Clifton astonished many with her decision to leave one of the top UK TV shows, especially in her year as reigning champion, but she is entirely justified in doing so. She has a bright future beyond the small screen (and away from a show whose producers are notoriously fickle at hiring and firing even the most popular of dancers). Unlike her recent role in Thoroughly Modern Millie, Clifton’s voice gets a chance to really soar and her impressive American accent remains on-point throughout. It would be wonderful to see her in a show that truly showcases her considerable theatre skills.
In support, former A1 singer Ben Adams turns in a commendable performance as boss and love-interest Nick. The duo between Clifton and Adams Here and Now is an absolute corker.
The ensemble are strong and their effort is palpable, even in the auditorium. However, they are let down a bit by some less than scintillating choreography, which in the confined playing space, looks cramped.
If it’s an evening of undemanding froth you’re after then Flashdance is the show for you. Get out the lycra and leggings and catch it as it tours the UK.