"Flashdance the Musical" Does the Best it Can But Ultimately Still Falls Flat

"Flashdance the Musical" Does the Best it Can But Ultimately Still Falls Flat

"Flashdance the Musical"  "Flashdance the Musical" at the OnCenter. Photo by Denise Truscello.

Who: Famous Artists Broadway Theater Series

Where: The OnCenter Crouse Hinds Theater

When: Through Feb. 18

Tickets: $32 and up 

Review by: Seamus Kirst

Maybe some things just aren’t meant to be musicals.

That’s what I spent a couple of hours telling myself last night during Flashdance the Musical at the  OnCenter.

The musical is based off the 1983 movie, Flashdance. Both take place in Pittsburgh and tell the story of Alex Owens, a young woman who works as a welder at a steel mill by day, and as provocative dancer at a bar by night. Dance is Alex’s real passion, and she hopes to gain admission to a local elite dance conservatory. She winds up having a romance with a man, Nick, whose family owns the mill she works at, and with that plotline the musical and movie both tackle issues of class and privilege.

The movie, which grossed over $100 million in box office, and had a soundtrack that made popular such songs as “Maniac” and “Flashdance…What a Feeling” certainly has a cult following. And in that sense it is no surprise that theater producers would try to make an extra buck off reproducing the movie as a live musical.

The costumes were very 80’s, colorful and fun. The actors were made to look similar to actors from the movies, with big 80’s perm hairdos.

The strongest part of the musical was the dancing. From ballet to break dancing, from pole dancing to that infamous exotic water dance scene from the movie, the musical had it all. But, even the talented dancers who comprised the cast, from the leads to the ensemble, could not save this show.

Though the leads, Karli Dinardo and Adam J. Rennie – both hailing from Australia – had great voices, as did most of the cast, in terms of being a musical, the production was weak. But, to me, it seems like it would be hard if not impossible to have a strong production of Flashdance the Musical because, frankly, the book and lyrics are pretty idiotic. And, in that sense, it felt like the immense talents of all of the actors, singers and dancers in the cast were being wasted.

"Flashdance the Musical" at the OnCenter. Photo by Chad Bremerman

Most of the lines were poorly written, and the combination of such silly dialogue and song lyrics with often overly dramatic delivery made the show seem like a parody of itself. The songs were not especially pleasant to listen to – which again felt like an issue that stemmed from the book and not the performers. The production – which lasted two and half hours – was about two and a half hours too long.

The sets were interesting. They were made of large panels with graphic projections. Though colorful lights, strobes and special effects kept your attention, the set in many ways was also laughable. Each scene had the name of the place written out across the top of the panels. For instance, when they were at Harry’s bar, “HARRY’S” was literally scrawled across the panels.

In writing this review, I must be honest: I am not some huge fan of the movie version of Flashdance, and perhaps if I were I would have a different opinion of the musical. In 1983, the movie opened to terrible reviews by critics and was still a box office success. I heard a decent amount of laughter during the production, so maybe this is a similar case to the movie, and the same people who loved the movie will also love the musical.