Alex Owens, a working class apprentice welder at Hurley’s Mill, comes alive at night pursuing her passion - dancing. Performing as a ‘flashdancer’ in Harry’s nightclub is not enough as Alex longs to train as a professional dancer at the prestigious, but out-of-her-league, Shipley Academy. Meanwhile, Nick Hurley, having noticed Alex at work, is captivated by her performance at Harry’s.
Joanne Clifton is everything her pedigree as World Champion Ballroom dancer suggests. Her performance in this different style is riveting and she can really sing. Her superb acting makes the 18-year-old Alex totally believable; fiercely independent and by turns feisty and yet vulnerable. Ben Adams as Nick Hurley is note perfect as Alex’s handsome romantic lead and their on-stage chemistry is particularly evident in the beautiful duet ‘Here and Now’.
The course of true love never runs smoothly and their on/off relationship is not helped by Nick influencing the Academy to invite Alex to a second audition. Alex’s elderly friend and ‘guardian angel’ Hannah, played with touching humour by Carole Ball, encourages her to remain true to her roots and not be intimidated by the accomplished dancers or the snooty board at the audition.
Harry’s bar is losing customers to the sleazy sex, drug and alcohol-fuelled Chameleon Club run by the reptilian CC and where Alex’s best friend Gloria, played by a dynamic Hollie-Ann Lowe, is lured into working.
The production has won well-deserved plaudits for its choreography and effective staging, although at times the constant movement of scenery proved distracting.
The successful film, on which this production is based, was criticised for its flimsy plot. Whilst this musical doesn’t shy away from serious issues, with Gloria’s descent into drug abuse and the ever-present threat of redundancies, there is little room to explore any of these sub-plots too deeply. Flashdance is a familiar fare - the working class girl with ambition, making good. But it is also about the importance of following your dream, about friendship, loyalty and love. Arguably this feel-good show, in its superficiality, energy and exuberance is a welcome relief from the current popularity of gritty realism.
The tremendous talent of the entire cast, not forgetting the brilliant band, is showcased in the phenomenal finale, where each member has their own moment. The entire audience was standing and joining in the medley of familiar songs. It would be hard not to feel uplifted by this show – what a feeling!