Flashdance the Musical

Think Flashdance and you think leotards, perms and “What a Feeling?”, right? On the surface, this show new to the West End is the epitome of the working class hero in an elitist industry cliché. Alex is a welder by day and dancer by night but is motivated to do a stage school audition at dying her mother’s request, she falls in love along the way and we all go home very satisfied. All this may be true but the production I saw on a snowy December afternoon has been directed in such a way that it wants you to see more than just a predictable chick flick bought to the stage.

Based on the 1983 Adrian Lyne movie, the character of Alex is played by rising star, Victoria Hamilton Barritt who is in her first leading role and she has more than deserves it, her Alex is feisty but not unlikable and her rise to the top symbolises female empowerment and the realising of her dreams. The audience want her to succeed. Flashdance is no walk in the park for the lead female. There are complex dance numbers to master, music, vocals and an accent to master. She holds it together well and although young, the audience feel in very safe hands with her at the helm. The choreography is the show’s bread and butter, it brims with physical energy from start to finish and I pitied the actors whose job it was to rouse this miserable and severely depleted audience with an enthusiastic rendition of I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll at the beginning of the second act. Okay, there is the occasional stage-school-kids-try-to-do-street cringe moment but this aside, the numbers put together by Strictly’s Arlene Phillips are near flawless and in the case of the dream sequence at the show’s climax, moving.

It is not only Victoria who is impressive in the lead but Matt Willis who plays her love interest Nick is also worthy of a mention as are the rest of the supporting cast members, experienced West Enders Hannah Levane and Charlotte Harwood.
Of course there will be many who have come to view the show as avid fans of the 1980s film (a little before my time, I’m afraid) and I’m sure they will not be disappointed. The film was not renowned for its music other than the big song so inevitably with a musical adaption come numbers designed to pad out what was undeniably a paper thin plot. The writers have done this successfully; I shamelessly wanted to belt out the lyrics to In Touch with the Beat, Totally Different People and Don’t Stop as I made my way back to the underground. I admit there were a few forgettable and unnecessary fillers but the cast work so hard this is easily forgivable.

Make no mistake, if you’re after a high brow evening of enlightening theatre this will not be the show for you, but if you’re in need of a little light relief, a camp night out, a feel good love story that doesn’t require too much thought and some impressive dance numbers that definitely do include leg warmers, head to the Shaftesbury theatre pronto.

From performance on 3/12/10

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