“Flashdance the Musical” is at the Fox Theatre on Feb. 5-10.
What makes a musical successful? Sensational theatrics and mesmerizing choreography? Or the story and the music? How do you balance them to make the show work. Each time out, producers, writers and composers toil to get it right. Few get the chance for a do-over. One exception: The team behind Flashdance the Musical, back at work after a lukewarm reception to the first version of the show in London in 2010.
Flashdance the Musical is, of course, based on the 1983 movie, a pop-culture phenomenon in its day. It’s the fairy-tale story of a lady steelworker who dreams of being a legitimate dancer while moonlighting as an exotic dancer. This tour began Jan. 1 in Pittsburgh, where the show is set, and will visit 20-plus cities before it’s done. A separate Broadway company is expected to begin performances in August.
The musical features all the hit songs from the movie, the Academy Award-winning title song (“Flashdance — What a Feeling”) along with “Maniac,” “Gloria,” “Manhunt” and “I Love Rock & Roll”). Sixteen new songs have been written by Robbie Roth and Robert Cary fill out the score.
Broadway’s Matthew Hydzik (West Side Story, Grease), who plays Nick, Alex’s boss and love interest, says she’s the heart of the story, “a walking paradox. She comes to Pittsburgh to follow her dreams. She is a lover of art, ballet and fashion.”
Alex’s plans get complicated when Nick begins to court her. If this sounds like a classic boy-chases-girl love story, don’t be fooled. The love story, says Hydzik, is essential but not the central focus. “Nick is a vehicle to tell Alex’s story. She has a dream and a passion.”
For Hydzik, the beauty of the story is that chasing a dream doesn’t mean leaving everything else behind.
It has a really good lesson to hold about not limiting yourself, he says. Both Alex and the audience learn to not “give up on your dreams or you will die inside.”
Hydzik calls the show’s visuals stunning. “It is of the age of the music video, and the musical has the video concept.”
The new staging and choreography come from director-choreographer Sergio Trujillo (Jersey Boys, Next to Normal, Memphis). For him, Flashdance was an opportunity to let loose creatively, to work in a variety of dance styles: ballet, modern, jazz, break dancing, soft shoe.
“One of the reasons why I took on the show as a director and choreographer was because I felt that only a choreographer could tell the story,” he told Playbill magazine. “It’s been a real treat for me to just let the show dance, and to let dance help tell the story.”
Taking a musical on the road before it goes to Broadway may seem challenging, but Hydzik finds it creatively stimulating. “It’s a great opportunity. We can find out what works — kind of like a comic fine-tuning his dialogue.”
Ultimately, he says,“It’s a good story — a powerful story, and they made something different with it.”
He even thinks it’s better than the movie.
Kenny Norton is a freelance writer who has written web content, articles and marketing/PR materials. He is contributing editor and administrator of www.AtlantaTheaterFans.com.