By Dale King
Flashdance: The Musical, is alive, well and playing to packed houses at the Broward Stage Door Theatre in Margate, 25 years after welder by day, “flashdancer” by night, Alexandra “Alex” Owens blew the specs off a panel of snooty judges to win admission to a terpsichorean academy by way of a sexed-up jazz dance performed in a tight, black body suit and leg warmers.
The musical, like the 1983 film, builds its story around a bevy of steelworkers, exotic dancers and sundry night club denizens who seek love, financial stability and success to get out of tawdry Pittsburgh.
Amid all this, scantily clad young ladies display acrobatic-style dance moves to the pounding rhythm of now-familiar flash-songs. The show was refitted as a stage musical in 2008 and played in and around London before crossing the pond, but has yet to hit Broadway.
Alex, the welder/flashdancer capably portrayed at Stage Door by New Yorker Abby Perkins, has dreams of attending the prestigious Shipley Dance Academy. The show’s narrative follows Alex and her fellow welders and exotic dancer friends as they struggle to “make it happen.”
Flashdance includes all the splashy musical numbers from the film as well as 14 new songs written expressly for the stage production. Paul O’Donnell, Stage Door’s technical director who won accolades for his elegant portrayal of Italian movie producer Guido Contini in last year’s production of Nine, directs the show that continues the venue’s streak of excellent performances.
Flashdance kicks off with the cast assembling for the uptempo “Steeltown Sky,” which brings the audience right into the steel mill itself, a harsh, girdered workplace where love sparks soon will fly. Alex, work clothes covering her dance outfit, is anxious to get to Harry’s Bar, a small club where she performs innovative, fashion-driven dances. On the mill floor, she catches the eye of Nick Hurley (Devon Norris), son of the firm’s owner, who takes an immediate interest in the lady steelsmith.
Their road to romance is rocky, but always tied to the main plot line. Their love is shaken by a forced layoff at the steel plant and undercut when Alex discovers Nick may have meddled to get her an audition at the academy.
With the addition of the new songs, two new characters who were not in the film and a feud between two rival club owners, Flashdance gets a bit long and somewhat repetitious. A stellar ending saves the production, but there are occasional plot potholes amid the bumps and grinds.
In truth, the rift between the club owners — Harry (Josh Nelson), a tough, but ultimately gentle boss, and C.C. (Sean Dorazio), top dog at the Chameleon Club, a dive trying to draw away Harry’s clientele — and dancers — adds an intriguing element illuminating Pittsburgh’s seamy underbelly.
The show bulls through the weak moments, fueled by an exceptional cast, fine tunes and some great characterizations. As Alex warms up to perform at Harry’s, her friends (and fellow dancers) Kiki (Victoria Anderson), Tess (Jaclyn Juola) and Gloria (Emily Senn) sing “Maniac.” Alex steps onto the stage, and is captivating.
Tess soon returns –as strong-voiced as ever – when she joins her ensemble to perform a rousing interpretation of Joan Jett’s “I Love Rock and Roll.”
Kiki performs a flashdance to “Manhunt” as Harry continues to worry about C.C.’s growing success. Alex, upset that her friend Gloria has fallen in with C.C.’s troupe, goes to the club and frees her friend. Jimmy (Steddy Amory) shows up and clobbers C.C. before reconciling with Gloria (“Where I Belong” reprise), the girl he left behind in a futile attempt to seek success in New York.
Perkins and Norris are exceptional lead performers, skilled in song and acting. When they sing together – as in “Here and Now,” “Enough” and “Hang On,” the joining is delightful.
Senn also displays fine vocal abilities, particularly with the song, “Gloria,” taking it from slow and sad to triumphant. Juolo, a Minnesotan making her Stage Door debut, shows her capacity to handle lead roles, as she has in the past. She’s also a dynamite singer.
Plaudits are in order for Fern Katz, who portrays Alex’s friend and dance mentor, Hannah, offering gentle advice in a way that bucks up the aspirant’s occasional flagging confidence.
Dorazio, just seen here in Saturday Night Fever, makes a 180-degree turn to portray C.C. as nasty and leech-like, with only his desire for money and sex in control.
David Nagy displays his usual piano prowess as musical director. Isabel Trelles handles the choreography and costume designer Jerry Sturdefant comes up with great outfits. Ardean Landhuis’ set is perfectly Pittsburgh.
Flashdance: The Musical runs through Feb. 11 at the Broward Stage Door Theater, 8036 W. Sample Road, Margate. For tickets, call 954-344-7765 or visit www.stagedoorfl.org.