Flashdance at the Orpheum Theater

Photo: Kyle Froman.

Photo: Kyle Froman.

The Hennepin Theatre Trust continues to do its part in bringing Broadway-bound new shows to Minneapolis audiences. Minnesota did its part by filling the seats with fans who may have come of age with its movie namesake. Flashdance the Musical certainly delivers on the flash and the dance – and the working-class-girl-making-it-on-her-own theme is all a musical really needs for a story.

What this show could use is a book worthy of this story’s iconic stature in 80’s culture and songs that can hold up to “I Love Rock ‘n Roll,” “Maniac,” “Gloria” and “What a Feeling”—songs from the era that tower over the rest of the score. The book feels hobbled together; songs fit as if they were placed in a skeletal outline without the smooth connecting tissue that makes a show flow—a parade of disco/pop powerhouse numbers (punctuated by a ballad now and then). Too many, with far too many words in them. It’s unfortunate that this show will undoubtedly ride its way to commercial success “on a feeling,” carried by simply amazing performers who deserve writing that’s as talented as they are.

Emily Padgett as the gritty Alex Owens carries the load on her lean dancer’s frame, a graceful dynamo with an extra dose of personality, singing her way through scene after scene as if she was born to this. While she wows as the dancer, Matthew Hydzik as her suitor, Nick Hurley, enchants us with his magical tenor voice. Had the script given to them more moments where they didn’t have to sing in each other’s faces, I think the chemistry between them would have bubbled up closer to the surface.

Kelly Felthous, DaQuina Moore and Rachelle Rak as Alex’s singer/dancer pals at the club where they all worked nights supplied the comedy and established the environment for Alex’s life beyond her day job. Star-quality performances from each one of them! Moore gets the 80’s classic “Manhunt,” performed with S&M/jungle animal costuming in tandem with Alex’s night out at the ballet. Inexplicable. If I am remembering rightly, this moment didn’t work in the film, either, so why repeat it?

There were many more nicely drawn roles – more than the story needed, in fact, and more subplots (and sub-sub plots) than could be adequately supported. There is, however, good reason to keep the spectacular break dancing sequences, both because they connect directly to the main plot, and because they’re, well, spectacular – Ryan Carlson, in particular.  Joann Cunningham as Alex’s mentor, Hannah, was just right as the aged dancer who kept Alex’s dream alive. Her moments let the script breathe a bit, although the writers missed Alex’s biggest moment by too quickly plugging in another song.

If the producers see fit to trim this down to what really matters and throw in a couple more authentic hits, I think it’s more likely to enjoy – and deserve – a sustained run.

Flashdance runs through April 7 at the Orpheum Theater, downtown Minneapolis. Recommended for dance lovers.

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