Think back to the famous 1983 movie "Flashdance" and answer the question, "What was it about?"
You will probably respond that it’s about a young girl named Alex, a steelworker who dances in an almost strip club and wants to get into an elite-level ballet school.
But that’s not the right answer if someone asks you about the stage musical version of "Flashdance" that opened Tuesday night at the Marcus Center and runs through Sunday.
This variation of "Flashdance" is about Alex, Alex and Nick, Nick and his grandfather, Nick and Andy, Jimmy, Jimmy and Harry, Jimmy and Gloria, Gloria, Harry and C. C., Gloria and C. C. and ... well, you get the point.
And that’s the problem with the production. There are so many stories dealing with a multitude of characters that the guts of the story – Alex's drive for something better – gets lost in the mess of more stories that come so fast it made my head spin.
Along the way, the people responsible for taking a good movie and turning it into musical theater decided somewhere that every storyline needed at least one song, maybe two. Over and over, the audience gets songs about trying hard, breaking up, getting together, how we’re sorry, how we’re not sorry, etc.
Sydney Morton, the young woman who plays Alex, has a powerhouse of a voice and is as cute as a button. She carries this production on her tiny shoulders, but even she seems weighed down at the end from her burden.
Everything else surrounding Morton, however, was startlingly average. Average singing. Average dancing. Average everything.
This is called musical theater. That’s two parts. One is musical. The other is theater, the telling of a story, and the production couldn’t seem to decide which story it’s going to tell, so it just decided to tell every single possible one.
When I think back to the movie, which grossed over $150 million worldwide, several things come to mind. One is the drama of a girl trying to do something only she thinks she might be able to do. Another is the brooding Michael Nouri who played Nick, her love interest. Nick is supposed to be dark, slightly dangerous and hold a mysterious attraction for Alex.
The Nick in this production – Corey Mach – resembled nothing more than a cub scout who sneaked out of a pack meeting and ended up Downtown. Rather than possessing an attractive and vaguely sinister allure, I expected this Nick to try and sell me a box of cookies. It’s hard to see what Alex ever saw in this guy.
The movie was also sexy. Jennifer Beals was sexy. Nouri was sexy. The girls who danced in the bar were sexy. There was no sexy in this production. It was like a meeting of soccer moms at the local coffee shop.
And finally, the final scene in the movie, where Alex kills it during her audition for the ballet school, screams with passion, drama and incredible excitement. Here, that final scene just lays there on the stage without anybody getting on their feet to shout, "You go girl!"
There are lots of people who are going to see this in Milwaukee, and my guess is that most of them are going to love it. But at two and a half hours, somebody somewhere needed to take an axe to this thing and pare it down to one really great story.
"Flashdance" features 16 new songs written for the stage version of the story. Almost all of them are message songs about trying harder, keeping your eye on the ball and not being discouraged by the fates.
I kind of wish the brains behind the show had listened to those songs and decided that they should have just one ball to keep an eye on. Instead, this show plays like the Powerball balls bouncing around around in their plastic cage.
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