Flashdance The Musical opened tonight for a week long run at The Playhouse Theatre Edinburgh bringing with it in name at least memories of the now iconic 1983 (highest grossing film of the year) film starring Jennifer Beals as Alex Owens, and of course the Academy Award winning title track song “Flashdance – What A Feeling” performed by Irene Cara. Memories are where this show stop at though as this production has a bit of an altered story-line and different songs – nothing particularly wrong with that, but the big problem is that for a show about a lead character with a driving passion for dance and music, there is no sign of that passion on-stage and the dance routines are like the rest of the show lifeless painting by numbers for the most part, as a rigid formula of how to put a stage show together is followed.
For Edinburgh, our lead of Alex is played by Verity Jones and not Joanne Clifton and male lead Nick Hurley is played by Colin Kiyani and not Ben Adams, and there is just no believable emotional connection on-stage between the two of them. Part of that is simply due to the script and the story line. The original film was itself produced with music video performances in mind and is not the greatest source material for dramatic roles, but there is a story here that demands better attention to the emotions of the characters. Verity Jones has her obvious strong point in dance, but perhaps not so strong in drama or vocals. With some obvious technical issues with the sound tonight, Verity did show a high level of professionalism in simply carrying on “as normal” while these issues were being resolved.
The songs here are noticeably different from the movie. “Manhunt” is still in there and Laura Branigan’s “Gloria” is an addition that fits the story line perfectly (note this is not the Van Morrison classic – a completely different song), but the addition of the Joan Jett classic “I Love Rock and Roll” is a puzzling one. For me, the latter is a far stronger song than anything else tonight, and maybe because I have been a fan of Joan Jett since her Runaways days is the reason that I found the on stage performance and choreography of this number so awful, complete with two people pretending to play guitars with hands that never move on the guitar fretboards.
I think one of the biggest problems that “Flashdance” has is that so many of the characters are simply stereotypes with little in their background to make the audience care about them. Sadly, lead in this production Alex Owens is one of them, and I found Nick Hurley a far more interesting character and Colin Kiyani’s performance here overshadowing Verity’s.
There is a really interesting human relationship story here, but it does not belong to our lead stars. Instead the story of Jimmy (Alex Christian) and Gloria (Hollie-Ann Lowe) is a far more interesting one to me.
“Flashdance – What A Feeling” may be the title song here, but I was getting none of that feeling tonight. Having said that though, many in the audience seemed to be having a great time and a good old fashioned sing-a-long to songs that they obviously love, so on a cold January night in Edinburgh the show was doing its job and entertaining the audience; unlike the film though it is simply not a classic. Who knows though, perhaps the show will inspire a new generation of dancers and welders.
Review by Tom King