Get your legwarmers on, we’re going on a date with the eighties. Much pleasure can be gained in losing oneself in the shell suits, lycra and bouncy electronic beats of Flashdance the Musical. Based on the major motion picture Flashdance, this story of passion, loss and reaching for stars sees Alex Owen, a welder by day and dancer by night, fight her way into prestigious dance school Shipley Academy. Directed by theatre veteran Hannah Chissick, the UK tour of Flashdance the Musical has Strictly Come Dancing extraordinaire Joanne Clifton as leading lady Alex. Predictably, Clifton moves with the precision and vigour of someone at the top of her game. Unpredictably, her husky, powerful vocals show the range and control of seasoned triple threat. Joanne Clifton is a force of nature. ‘Dancing like she’s never danced before’ is a colossal understatement as Clifton performs with a thirst to entertain and charm the audience. Love interest Nick Hurley (former pop star Ben Adams), finds preference in a pop-style falsetto as opposed to a traditional musical theatre belt and when harmonising together, the two are songbirds with voices intertwining sweetly.
Choreographed by Matt Cole, the sharp routines are neat with daring lifts executed spotlessly. Elements of contemporary choreography spring up throughout, which aids the relevance and vitality of the piece. The young ensemble are fresh from the womb of drama school, with an abundance of energy and a strong urge to be the next best thing. Owen’s gal pal trio provide excellent individual performances with soulful Sia Dauda as KiKi, striking Demmileigh Foster as Tess and sweet Hollie-Ann Lowe as Gloria. Although admirable individually, the gel of the ensemble is effected with performers sticking out noticeably. Warm and witty Carol Ball as guardian angel Hannah states there are ‘no small parts, only small people’ which particularly resonates with her care assistant Louise, played by vivacious Sasha Latoya.
Designed by Takis, the projected backdrops did the trick but lacked a certain depth, much like opting for CGI in films - one misses the practical effects that provide detail and authenticity. Simple primary colours are prominent in the costuming and lighting of the piece, with double denim, funky sweatbands and yellow tracksuits parading the stage; immediately transporting us to the eighties where the perms were as tight as the leather. With mould-breaking musicals such as Hamilton and London Road hitting (particularly) younger audiences with intelligent, stimulating and experimental work; I fear the time for sentimental musicals may be passing. Alas, not just yet. The corny, romantic writing ensures the musical is as carefree as one hopes for when watching a nostalgic, feel-good musical. - Faye Butler