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Flashdance - The Musical

Will Alex the welder hold on to her dreams of becoming a ballerina? The stage show of the film.
Credit Brian Hartley
New Theatre, Mon December 15th 2008 - Sat January 3rd 2009

September 19, 2017
It would be hard not to feel uplifted by this show – what a feeling!

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!

December 17, 2008
Flashdance the film is a vehicle for a lot of dancing and a lot of close ups of writhing thighs and I had heard that clever photography and stand-in dancers were used for the dance routines, so I was interested to see how a musical based on the film would do.

Flashdance - The Musical very clearly echoes the film in many places: Alex has the same hairstyle and clothes - she even takes her bra off under her top while talking to Nick in the same way. She rescues her friend from the other bar, Nick makes a phone call to get her the interview etc. Surprisingly, though, the musical has more plot than the film. Alex acquires a mother who wants Alex’s life to turn out better than her own; Jimmy, Gloria’s cousin, is a small time crook who kills for money; Gloria has a drunk father and we even get snippets of Nick the boyfriend’s background. He is an illegitimate nephew of the boss who tries (unsuccessfully) to rescue the steelworks from closure. The musical is also funnier in parts and darker in parts than the film; there is altogether more depth.

The set works very well; the floor and backdrop are painted to look like rusty steel; steel plates move across the stage to change the scene and a hanging walkway is cleverly used at times to show two scenes happening simultaneously.

My overall impression of the dancing was that the main parts, although excellent, did surprisingly short solo dances, until right at the end when Alex dances for her audition and this last solo is fantastic. However, the ensemble dancers danced their socks off, from the solo breakdancers who performed for a minute while scenes changed to the ensemble pieces, beautifully choreographed. Arlene Phillips is to be congratulated for her choreography throughout.

The musical has a lot of new songs and I have to say that these were not memorable and often the words were inaudible, though this did not matter much. As for the singing, Victoria Hamilton-Barritt (Alex) belts out her numbers with panache; Noel Sullivan (Nick) and Bernie Nolan (Hannah), were pleasant to the ear (Bernie Nolan, in particular, enunciated beautifully). The voice I could have listened to all night, though, was Ruthie Stephens as Gloria: her voice in her two solos was clear and unforced and quite delightful.

All in all a good show and far more interesting than I dared hope for.
I saw Flashdance last night and overall I was not as impressed as the reviewers, unfortunately. The film has to be one of the iconic films of the eighties and the production would have a lot to live up to. The singing was fantastic, the backing dancers were great, but the 3 main images of the film, ie; gloria, the chair dance and the audition were either left out or disappointing. What a shame as the expectation of the audience before the performance was that of excitement, hopefully getting up and dancing and singing along the music, but that was not to be as most of the music was new for the show, the finale did allow a bit of that - shame it was right at the end!
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