Stage Review: 'Flashdance' has high energy, nostalgia factor, but a bit dated

The Orpheum is opening its season with “Flashdance — The Musical,” putting the 1980s on stage with moonwalks, big hair and evocations of MTV when the then music video network was fresh and interesting.

The musical reconfigures the popular 1983 film to fit on the stage, bringing back some favorite tunes and moves while adding new material.

The presentation stays firmly rooted in that decade, which works as a nostalgia booster but also reveals ways that era fails to hold up 30 years later.

Tom Hedley is one of the film’s co-creators, co-wrote the book for the musical and is its executive producer. In a recent conversation, he said that the story has universal qualities of overcoming fear and adversity to achieve ambition, but that it is locked into the period.

Perhaps too much locked in.

There’s a lot to like about the musical. The talent is delightful and the story moves along with a good energy, from ballet to break-dancing — and with one splendid nod to Grace Jones. The set design is terrific and costumes hit the mark.

A noticeable drawback is that the balance between vocals and orchestra is tilted toward the band. It’s apparent that there are some strong voices, but they’re unable to break through the unremitting electronic thumping coming from the pit.

Even the obviously big voice of DeQuina Moore (Kiki) is unfairly dialed down. The leads, Jillian Mueller (Alex) and Matthew Hydzik (Nick), seem to be doing lovely vocal work but are so muffled that you can’t tell.

But the deeper issue is that “Flashdance” too often comes off as dated. These days, we’re exposed to more modern dance than ever, and we see some remarkable performances on, for example, Fox TV’s “So You Think You Can Dance.” With that bar raised, some of the routines in the “Flashdance!” musical don’t carry much flash.

Furthermore, the final dance — where Alex does her knockout audition to get into the snooty dance academy — embraces the film version. Unfortunately, it can’t provide the cinematic tools — panning, tracking, cutaways, close-ups — that presented it as a more interesting routine on the screen than it really is without edits.

You really want this effort to succeed. It’s got built-in energy, a fail-safe story, beautiful people, pop appeal and a fun nostalgia factor. But by the end of it, the routines stay in the memory as routine.

“Flashdance — The Musical”

The Orpheum, 203 S. Main St. Shows: Friday, 8 p.m.; Saturday, 2 and 8 p.m.; Sunday, 1:30 and 7 p.m.; Monday-Tuesday, 7:30 p.m. Tickets: $20 to $90. More information: 901-525-3000 and orpheum-memphis.com.

© 2013 Go Memphis. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Comments » 0

Be the first to post a comment!

Want to participate in the conversation? Become a subscriber today. Subscribers can read and comment on any story, anytime. Non-subscribers will only be able to view comments on select stories.