Regional Reviews: Florida - Southern
Also see Jeffrey's review of A Gentleman's Guide to Love & Murder
Stage Door Theatre presents FlashdanceThe Musical, an ambitious and gutsy adaptation, with mixed results. With a book by Tom Hedley and Robert Cary, music by Robbie Roth and lyrics by Cary and Roth, the musical features 14 new songs and many of the same themes, elements, and the iconic songs of the original Paramount film, but the execution of these treasured classics is often lackluster and dull.
With exposed red bricks and pink and red hues forming the scenery, set designers Jodi Dellaventura and Natalie Torres seem to be continuing the bold color scheme that has persisted throughout Stage Door's 25th season. Other visual components include a bi-level stage, two stepladders, a moving staircase, and a spiral staircase. All of these set pieces working together are promising for an exciting and animated show that plays with themes of characters moving up and down in the world. Yet, despite this recipe for success, the other ingredients don't cohesively come together.
The musical begins uneventfully with "Flashdance... What a Feeling," the famous song from the original movie soundtrack originally performed by Irene Cara. Instead of pumping up the audience for an electric show, the opening number squeaks by without much impact. Unfortunately, technical sound issues with the microphones and music at the onset hurt the intro all the more at the performance I attended.
The story centers on Alexandra "Alex" Owens, a Pittsburgh welder by day and exotic dancer or "flashdancer" by night, who desires a career as a professional dancer. While dreaming of enrollment at the prestigious Shipley Dance Academy (Pittsburgh Conservatory of Dance and Repertory in the movie), Alex meets Nick Hurley (Devon A.A. Norris), the rich owner and boss of her company who takes a quick and assertive romantic interest in her. While navigating the terrain of her heart, Alex must deal with the plights of her welder friends and her exotic dancer friends, doing former ballerina and mentor Hannah (Fern Katz) proud, and deciding whether or not her dreams to turn pro can be pursued and caught.
As the protagonist, Perkins favors Jennifer Beals, the star of the original movie, in hair texture and color. Perkins has just enough spunk, passion and drive to keep things interesting, but not enough to delight the movie's original fan base. However, Perkins is part of all of this production's triumphant scenes, including act one's musical numbers "Put it On," an entertaining and funny piece alongside Kiki (the spicy Victoria Anderson), Tess (Jaclyn Juola), and Gloria (sweet and relatable Emily Senn), a character reinvented from the movie character Jeanie, and "Here and Now" with Nick.
Further highlights include Kellyanna Polk's ballet solos. As a trained dancer from several schools like The Royal Ballet and Joffrey, Polk shines with her beautiful lines. Periodically and like the film, FlashdanceThe Musical also makes good use of short, solo dance interludes that enhance the ambiance and authenticity of the show as a dance celebration. Within these interludes, Johanna Moise sets herself apart. As for numbers that accentuate passion and singing, Norris compels in "Enough."
Some things that don't fare as well include the revisiting of dances that were popular in the 1980s. Despite director Paul O'Donnell's (Stage Door's frequent technical director and star of 2017's Nine) sound management of the flurry of activity happening onstage, the ensemble tackles the breakdancing and other dances poorly under Isabel Trelles' choreography. The dancers simply don't have enough enthusiasm, energy, or enough/too much technical skill since these dance moves are street moves. And when the production goes into "Maniac," a hit first performed by Michael Sembello, the ensemble doesn't live up to the lyrics "she's a maniac, maniac, on the floor, and she's dancing like she's never danced before." Despite the title "I Love Rock and Roll," Juola and the ensemble's performance of it comes off as amateur.
FlashdanceThe Musical has drummed up a beloved movie and a beloved era for many. In spite of some plot and character differences, some of which were changed partially to translate to the stage, much of the original messages have been retained. With a little more polish and a little more verve, the original feelings could be revived as well.
FlashdanceThe Musical, through February 11th, 2018, at Stage Door Theater, 8036 West Sample Road, Margate FL. Show times are Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays at 2:00pm and Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00pm. For tickets and information please call 954-344-7765 or visit www.stagedoorfl.org.