Put on your leg warmers; "Flashdance" comes to Milwaukee
It's a good time to love the '80s. Just a few weekends ago, not one, not two, but three movies ("Endless Love," "About Last Night" and "RoboCop") hit theaters, hoping to reawaken some memories and maybe make some new ones in the process.
It seems the theater world wants in on the nostalgia too, as the leg warmers of "Flashdance" are coming to life at the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts starting March 4. Before the cast pulls up the curtain – and down on a chain attached to a bucket of water – OnMilwaukee got a chance to talk to Corey Mach, who plays the main character's romantic interest Nick Hurley, about comparisons between the movie and the musical, meeting a new on-stage love interest and what movie he would bring to the stage if he could.
OnMilwaukee.com: Have you watched the original movie?
Corey Mach: No. I heard before that it was pretty different from the musical, which it is in some respects, especially in terms of the character I'm playing. I had heard it was very differently written from the movie, so I wanted to put my own take on it and not have any premeditative thoughts about what it should be or how the original actor played it. He's much older than me, and the plot line is considerably different between the two of us, me and the lead girl Alex. So I kind of just wanted to work off of my intuition as an actor instead of being told what to do through this movie.
Putting a movie into musical form comes with a bunch of different, strange stigmas, and I think there's a way to approach it where you can put your own spin on it while still remaining true to the original.
OMC: What in particular are the changes that you know of between your character and the character in the original '80s movie?
CM: Well, the role of Nick is much more explored in the stage production than in the movie. He's kind of given his own struggle to overcome in the musical. I spoke to Tom Hedley, who co-wrote the screenplay and also wrote the book for the musical. We refer to him as "The Father of 'Flashdance.'" He has so many stories about how he got so lucky and this story that he wrote falling into the laps of some really talented and prestigious filmmakers and producers.
He tells me this story often of how he would be wandering around the set backstage and would notice the lead guy on set, in the middle of a scene, just kind of standing there. Not really doing much and just googly-eyed at these girls. He didn't really have a backstory, so he wanted to make sure that, in the musical, the character would be a lot more fleshed out. And he is now; he has a full character arc, has his own songs and is really prominently a lot more featured.
OMC: What other updating do you know of to the story, if any, have they done?
CM: It's still set in the '80s. There are additional characters in the stage production that help the audience get to know Alex better. All of the actors on stage are doing their own singing and dancing and everything; in the film, Jennifer Beals had a few stunt doubles as she was dancing, including I think this little Puerto Rican 11-year-old boy for her break-dancing stuff. There's a lot more dancing in the musical.
But there are some similarities too. There's the same familiar storyline of the underdog and follow your dreams. There's the same five original hit songs from the film, including 16 new original songs written for the stage. The iconic water scene is still in it. Essentially, the stage production is an expanded version of the movie. Those who saw and loved the film will be able to see all of their favorite nostalgic moments, but will also take away a lot more from the stage production.
OMC: What interests you most about this particular show? What's an interesting thing that you find about it that drew you to it?
CM: The role and the music I get to sing. The original music just kind of fits really well into what I like to do and what I like to sing. Contemporary musical theater, even if obviously there's like an '80s twist to it.
I always heard don't take a role because of the show, take a show because of the role. I was excited to kind of make the part mine. I mean, there's only been one person who's played this role ever before, and I replaced him. So it's an opportunity for me to make my stamp on it without having people tell me how to play it, which is a huge reason why I didn't see the movie.
I mean, with a lot of theater these days – especially these big blockbusters that I've been a part of as well – you come into a show, and there's a certain way it needs to be done. You need to do it like the original or like the person that you're replacing. So it was kind of cool to come in and have the opportunity to put my own stamp on it.
OMC: Speaking of replacing, if I read correctly, you're going to have a new Alex, Sydney Morton, for the Milwaukee show?
CM: Yeah, her first show was yesterday.
OMC: How was that adjusting to a whole new romantic lead character?
CM: All of my scenes are with her, so it's a whole different show. And that's exactly what it is: different. It's actually a really good acting opportunity for me because, through rehearsals and everything, I was just kind of going everything the way I was used to doing with the old Alex. A few days ago, though, I kind of had to retrack my mind, realizing that my character is going to change because of what she's giving me. So I had to retool my instrument and my mind for this completely new transformation of the character. It was kind of cool to start over.
OMC: Is there one moment in particular in the show that you really had to retrack your character's thoughts?
CM: Yeah, actually. There's this first scene that we have together, and we're getting into our first "getting to know you" scene. Sydney plays it a completely different way. Her style of flirting is completely different than Jillian (Mueller, actress who formerly played Alex Owens on tour) and her style of flirting, so I had to learn that I had to maybe push a little harder to get in with her, get her to see my side and get her to like me. It changed the whole dynamic of the scene, and from there on out, it changed everything else as well because we were moving at a different pace.
OMC: "Flashdance" is a part of a very popular trend with Broadway with taking classic or well-known movies and adapting them for the stage. If you could bring a movie to the stage, which one would you pick?
CM: "The Help."
OMC: That was fast! Why that one?
CM: If someone doesn't do it soon, I'm just going to write it. I think it would be brilliant. I think the characters are great, and I think the conflict going on – not only at that time in the world, but at that time for the characters – is so great that I feel like any of them could burst into song at any moment.
OMC: That was a faster answer than I was expecting. It was like you were ready for that one.
CM: Oh no, I think about this a lot. I also think "Mean Girls" would be awesome, and I hear they're doing that, I think with Tina Fey.
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