Review – Flashdance the Musical October 20, 2015 – Tobin Center for the Performing Arts

SAM_5639When I heard “Flashdance the Musical” was coming to town, memories flooded my head of how great the movie made me feel back when I was 17 and life was still so far ahead of me.  I, like most girls my age, left the movie theater feeling invincible, as if I could accomplish whatever I dreamed.  I was so excited to see this show. I hoped that I’d get to share that experience with my soon-to-be 17 year-old daughter.  Sadly, I have to admit that halfway into it, (shortly after the fifteen-minute intermission,) I found myself wishing it would end soon.  My daughter found the story-line cliché and corny.  It’s probably been over 25 years since I’ve seen the movie, which was released in 1983.  Apparently, what was entertaining to teens then is passé now.  This performance lacked the passion that was in the movie; moments that should have been dramatic were flat.  In short, I would equate the performance to reciting an action story in monotone.

flashdance program coverThe sequence of events was choppy, so if you’ve never seen the movie, as my daughter had not; it was not easy to follow along.  I also felt the set changes were too visible and the scenes ended abruptly.  Perhaps it would have been better if the lights dimmed while the singing and dancing faded-out or maybe they should have made use of a curtain. I don’t know, but actually seeing the cast and crew moving props around was distracting. The intermission occurred just after the water scene and we watched as the crew took the entire 15 minutes to dry all the water from the stage!

Despite the lackluster script, and considering this was her debut performance, the beautiful Julia Macchio did a good job playing Alex Owens, a young girl who works in a steel plant and moonlights as a risqué dancer in a bar.  Yes, you read that correctly, “Macchio.” Julia is the daughter of the “Karate Kid”.  However, I don’t think she’ll be getting a black belt for this performance.  I am certain she has natural talent, but this musical doesn’t do her justice.  She is perfect for the role of Alex because she has a fantastic body and really can dance.  However, the director(s) chose to highlight those assets only in the last few minutes of the production – in the scene when she auditions for the Shipley Dance Academy.  That was the most entertaining portion of the entire show, but it was too little, too late. Julia did dance her heart out, that’s why I credit the writer(s) and director(s) with the fail.

Alex looked very comfortable in the infamous cut-off sweatshirt.  It was not quite as revealing, but for a moment, she looked just like Jennifer Beals.  Here’s a little piece if trivia – I saw an interview where Jennifer Beals explained that the cut-up t-shirt was not planned in the script at all. Apparently, it was her own shirt, which had shrunk in the wash.  She wanted to wear it to rehearsal, so she cut the neckline off so it would fit over her head.  Director, Adrian Lyne, liked the look, so he had the costume designer make one for her to wear in the movie.  Now you know!

I would have to say that the most professional performer of the show was Tanisha Moore, who played Kiki, one of the dancers at Harry’s, the bar where Alex works. Tanisha gave a Tony-worthy Broadway performance.  When the four girls performed, “Put it On,” she rocked the house with her powerful voice.  I could see her playing lead in a musical about Gladys’s Knight or Ella Fitzgerald.  Another noteworthy actor was John Langley, who played Joe, one of the steel mill workers. The rest of the cast seemed to be over-acting ad nauseum, including Ryan Neal Green, who played Nick Hurley – Alex’s boss and boyfriend.  However, he was nice “eye candy!” The underlying plot of “Flashdance” is that a love affair is supposed to be unfolding between Alex and Nick, yet throughout the play, they only kissed twice. During several of the songs sung between Alex and Nick, instead of embracing and singing in each other’s faces like typical star-crossed lovers, they were simply pacing around the stage.

Ironically, as I was searching the web to refresh my memory about the original movie, I came across an article entitled, “Flashdance: Recalling the Film, the Actress, and the True Story Behind It” http://www.officialstickman.com/2013/03/flashdance-recalling-film-actress-and.html, which states:

Roger Ebert, a professional film critic and television film-review co-host, placed this movie on his personal list of “Most Hated” films and stated, ‘Jennifer Beals shouldn’t feel bad. She is a natural talent, she is fresh and engaging here, and only needs to find an agent with a natural talent for turning down scripts.’”

So, I guess I can say the same for my fellow Hofstra University Alum – Julia Macchio – girl, next time be more selective and insist they let you dance.

I was also disappointed that some of the songs from the original movie – huge hits in the 80s – such as “Maniac” and “Gloria,” were condensed.   In my opinion, that was a huge mistake.  To me, those tunes were sure to have engaged the crowd.  Unfortunately, just as we started getting the urge to sing along and dance in our seats, the song and the scene would end! In contrast, where a little theatrical dialogue would have been sufficient, the characters would simply walk across the set, singing songs with lyrics that were difficult to discern. I’ve seen many shows at the Tobin Center, so I know the venue’s acoustics are excellent.  However, my daughter and I had trouble hearing some of the actors, including Macchio, whether they were speaking or crooning.  A few times, I heard cackling from the microphones, so it would appear the tour’s sound equipment was in need of adjustment.

The finale, “What a Feeling,” was a culmination of the entire cast’s best singing and dancing for the entire night. When it was over, my daughter turned to me and said, “When the ending IS the musical.”

San Antonian’s must have done their research, because there were a huge number of empty seats. Since I knew the plot, I didn’t feel the need to look for reviews prior to the show. I can’t say it was the worst play I’ve ever seen, but it was by no means a Broadway show. I talked to a few people in the lobby that were of the same opinion, but I also heard some raving about how good it was.  From my view, the actors should have put a little more emotion into their roles and pizzazz in their steps throughout the show.  In conclusion, I’ll say this; “Flashdance the Musical” was comparable to a really good high school musical or a really low budget, off-Broadway production. I think if you don’t expect too much, you’ll enjoy it!  If you saw it or plan to see it, let me know what you think. – BMT

SAM_5730Postscript – Attention Litter Bugs

As a side-bar note, shame on you San Antonio! It is very disturbing to my daughter and I to see cups – both empty and full, food wrappers, and food scraps, all thrown on the floor and left on the seats at the end of performances.  Your mother doesn’t work there.  The ushers are volunteers!  The Tobin Center is not a stadium or an arena; it is a theatre for the performing arts.  Millions of dollars were spent to build the Tobin for our benefit; it should be treated with respect, so let’s keep it beautiful.  You wouldn’t toss drinking cups and food scraps all over your formal living room, would you?  Well, then, stop trashing our house!  Thank you.

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