Flashdance The Musical was performed by third-year students from the Performance Preparation Academy at the Electric Theatre, Guildford. This review refers to the performance on 26 February by the ‘Skin’ cast.
Star rating: four stars ★ ★ ★ ★ ✩
Flashdance The Musical, Tom Hedley, Robbie Roth and Robert Cary’s musical theatre adaptation of Adrian Lyne’s celebrated 1983 film about steel workers and erotic dancers, may seem a bold choice for a production by a young cast who could not have known the decade to which the show pays homage. Nonetheless, under the able direction of Christopher Howell, third-year students from the Performance Preparation Academy do an admirable job of bringing the 1980s back to life on the stage of Guildford’s Electric Theatre.
Inspired by the real-life story of Maureen Marder, Flashdance The Musical centres on the unconventional character of Alex Owens, welder by day and club dancer by night, as she pursues her artistic aspirations to secure a place at a professional training academy against the odds. Particularly striking in this production is the sheer versatility of the cast, Louise Pieri’s choreography embracing styles ranging from ballet to pole dancing and making particularly effective use of the ensemble arranged in formation behind the lead singer.
Of Alex’s fellow flashdancers, Shona Manderson as Jazmin creates the greatest impact, both in the dressing room scenes and during her solo, ‘Manhunt’, in which she demonstrates an impressive command of the cape. Lauren Mobley as Keisha comes a close second in confidently leading the dancers through their performance of ‘In Touch With the Beat’, and Sarah McCarthy as Gloria, torn between two dance clubs and emotionally worn, realises with equal success both the heartfelt ‘Twenty-One’ and the high-octane ‘I Love Rock and Roll’.
Harriet Harper navigates well both irony and tragedy as Alex’s caring mother, Hannah Owens, and Louis Rayneau portrays with conviction Jimmy’s desperate descent into criminal activity. Dan Stark, William Paul, Michael Magennis and Tayler Davis make an effective if underused quartet of steel mill workers, while James Hudson, in the role of Alex’s off-again-on-again boyfriend and boss Nick Hurley, projects a fantastic onstage chemistry with co-star Beth O’Meara.
But the heartiest congratulations of all must be reserved for O’Meara herself, as star of the show Alex Owens. Stepping seamlessly in and out of fully choreographed dance routines and negotiating endless costume changes, she brings great energy to the stage unwaveringly from the opening number, ‘Steeltown Sky’, to Alex’s audition-piece finale, the Oscar-winning ‘What a Feeling’ (Giorgio Moroder, Keith Forsey and Irene Cara), one of several songs imported from the original film.
Technical difficulties sadly seem to occur with too great a frequency in student productions, and in this instance the intermittent miking problems were particularly noticeable in that they obscured some of the best singing of the evening. This was a great pity, even if the performers did not seem to let the problems put them off. On a more positive note, Robbie Roth’s rock score was cleanly executed throughout by the pit band under Simon Lambert’s superb musical direction.
Overall, this is a fine production of Flashdance The Musical, in which its inherent feelgood factor comes across strongly and the many talents of its remarkable cast are showcased in abundance.