“First, when there’s nothing…” — Not much feeling in Flashdance The Musical

By Kyle Poluyko

Many of the 1980s quintessential movie musicals have found a second life in stage adaptations; Footloose (1984), Hairspray (1988), Xanadu (1980), among others. The reason those productions achieved success is, simply put, they were adaptable. The story behind each allowed for a successful transfer to the stage. So many sequences and frames in Flashdance the film were designed for that medium and are recognized as iconic. Unfortunately, much of Flashdance The Musical, which opened a two-performance engagement at the Community Auditorium October 27, is lost in translation and fails to captivate as its big screen inspiration still does more than 30 years later.

The cast is talented and capable but can only achieve so much with a less than inspired book, silly lyrics looking for the next rhyme, and a score that is desperately trying to incorporate every 80s musical sound. The production retains some of the iconic songs including “Maniac,” “I Love Rock and Roll,” “Gloria” and “What A Feeling.” The new songs for the production, though unmemorable, do a decent job at moving the adapted story along. The plot largely remains intact but with alterations to some locations and characters. Mawby’s Bar is now Harry’s, 18-year old Alex’s (Julia Macchio) best friend Jeanie is now Gloria (Hannah K MacDonald) for the expressed purpose of utilizing the song “Gloria” and she is no longer a figure skater but a stripper. Alex’s mentor, Hannah, is now established as the costume mistress for the exotic dancers at Harry’s.

Macchio, as do many in the cast — most especially Tanisha Moore as Kiki — possesses strong vocals and striking stage presence. But, again, Macchio and her fellow cast members are hamstrung by a script that is stale, relies too heavily on cliches, and feels disingenuous. The romantic relationship Alex embarks on with steel mill boss Nick (Ryan Neal Green) lacks the raw, intense passion so critical in the film. Throughout, the cast seemed to schmacting – plainly going through the motions with a lack of conviction. The ensemble is unsuitably relegated to handling set changes and filling in the background throughout most of the performance. Resultingly, the audience finds it difficult to root for any of the characters they know they want and are supposed to.

The set is little more than a corrugated metal facade onto which mundane scenery is projected, and tables and chairs are carried on and off repeatedly. Sadly, too, the musical tracks usually provided by a band or orchestra are not live but “canned” or pre-recorded. The sound of the entire production was muddled and muffled, as if one was listening to the performance through a stethoscope. This touring production may have just opened at the beginning of the month but, with a ticket price of $90, the audience is deserving of a show that is properly teched in a venue with acoustics as refined as those in the Community Auditorium.

It should be noted that Flashdance The Musical is a non-Equity touring production. The cast and it’s crew are not protected by a union contract that ensures they have every means to deliver solid, consistent performances. In contrast, the TBCA’s 2013 engagement of We Will Rock You was an Equity production with the same ticket price, and of a significantly higher calibre. It may be worth a ticket buyer’s while to investigate such before spending hard-earned money and hoping for the best. As anticipated as Flashdance The Musical was, it failed to live up to many expectations when, in fact, the potential was there but was never satisfyingly realised.

Flashdance The Musical, a Touring Theatre Associates production, played a two performance engagement at the Thunder Bay Community Auditorium October 27 and 28.