Before “Flashdance – The Musical” opens on the stage of the Colonial Theatre, a series of ’80s pop music images and snippets of MTV videos are projected on the curtain to set the tone for the era when this story takes place. But the music and visual loop lasts only a few minutes and then repeats. Rather than warm the audience up, the segment feels like a warning: don’t expect more than a brief glimpse of the iconic images from the 1983 film. All the rest is padding.
To be fair, “Flashdance” the movie had a paper-thin premise built around a cliché, but the musical misses the opportunity to flesh out the characters and instead emphasizes the tawdriest aspects of the tale. The story revolves around an 18-year-old welder named Alex (Sydney Morton) who dreams of being a dancer. She dances at a nightclub while wishing she could take lessons at a ballet school, but is too afraid of failing to audition.
When Alex’s boss, Nick Hurley (Corey Mach) asks her out, she initially turns him down but before you can say “What a Feeling,” they fall for each other, break up and get back together for a happy ending.
The movie’s only memorable bits were the crazy dance scenes set to the ’80s hits “Maniac,” “I Love Rock ’n Roll,” “Manhunt” and the signature Irene Cara number, “Flashdance . . . What a Feeling.” For the musical, composer Robbie Roth has added 18 more songs, all of which sound the same, none of which add anything to the story line. Most of Roth and Robert Cary’s lyrics are drowned out by a relentless bass line and a muddy mix, but when you can hear them, they’re just an endless string of clichés that don’t scan well, making the songs always sound a little out of synch.
Director and choreographer Sergio Trujillo (“Memphis,” “Jersey Boys”) runs out of staging ideas and dance combinations about 20 minutes into the show, which means that not only the music, but the dancing is repetitive. The highlight of the show is a breakdance routine led by a mesmerizing dancer named Ryan Carlson, who infuses every move with personality and style. In fact, every time Carlson appears onstage, the energy changes, and the dancers seem less frantic and more inspired.
But, um, this show is about a girl and her dream. Someone should have reminded the writers, since ridiculous subplots about Alex’s friend Gloria (a lame excuse to play the hit “Gloria”) going to work at a strip club and layoffs at the plant can’t distract us from the show’s primary weakness: We never feel anything is at stake, and we never see any chemistry between Alex and Nick.
Costume designer Paul Tazewell has an impressive track record (“Memphis,” “In the Heights,” “The Color Purple”) so it’s hard to understand why the costumes here are not flattering, and definitely not sexy. Most of the outfits were so ill-fitting they looked like a collection of wardrobe malfunctions about to happen. Sending our heroine to her ballet school audition wearing black bikini briefs was just mean.
But you know you’re in trouble when the big “What a Feeling” number was so anticlimactic that I couldn’t help wondering what Carlson might have done with it. He’s a dancer to watch.Terry Byrne can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Correction: An earlier version of this review misidentified dancer Ryan Carlson.