Flashdance the Musical

Book by Tom Hedley & Robert Cary, lyrics by Robert Cary & Robbie Roth, music by Robbie Roth

Shaftesbury Theatre

(2010)

Review by Anita-Marguerite Butler

It can be tricky to convert a movie into a musical theatre spectacle and the creatives behind Flashdance The Musical (Director Nikolai Foster and team) do well.

Set in the legwarmered nostalgic glow of 1983, steel-worker and secret dancer Alex Owens (Victoria Hamilton-Barritt) is seemingly of the wrong ilk/social status to attain a coveted ballet school place but is encouraged nevertheless by dance friends Gloria, Keisha and Jazmin (Charlotte Harwood, Hannah Levane and Twinnielee Moore respectively), her adorable mother (a perfectly-pitched performance from Sarah Ingram), and rich boy/love interest Nick Hurley (Matt Willis, former pop star from Busted), the factory owner's son.

This is not a totally authentic slice of the 80s and at times feels contemporary with its mix of street dance and 21st century moves. Whatever: Arlene Phillips is a dance-genius and her choreography is the star of the show, while set design by Morgan Large allows smooth transitions from factory to launderette to boxing ring to nightclub to audition room.

Four movie songs are retained and their reworkings sit well in a musical theatre genre: in particular Michael Sembello's 'Maniac' when seized by this energetic and largely young ensemble, and Laura Branigan's 'Gloria' (omitted from the original soundtrack) that blends easily into the narrative. The cast includes an under-used Ricky Rojas, convincing as Latino bad-guy/club owner Dr. Kool, and whose fine singing voice deserves to be heard more than it is here.

Bravo then to Victoria Hamilton-Barritt, who resembles Jennifer Beals and, as a trained ballet dancer, handles the climactic audition piece set to Irene Cara's 'What a Feeling' with precision and energy (after two hours of almost continuous song and dance). If the scene seems less than the original, it's because the film could boast the merged talents of six dancers, rather than just the one.

Flashdance has taken over the vacancy left by Hairspray in the beautifully restored and excellently raked Shaftesbury and should do well as a fun (loud!) night, as inspiration for aspiring dancers, and for 80s kids who remember brick-sized mobile phones, tape-cassette walkmans, aerobics by Jane Fonda, and a pre-X-Factor world when you really did have to pay in sweat to make your mark.

Booking to 26 February 2011

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