Flashdance The Musical, the latest in a long line of screen-to-stage musicals to hit the West End, has high-kicked its way into the Shaftesbury Theatre (recent home of Hairspray), where it opened last night (14 October 2010, previews from 27 September).
The stage show, based on blockbuster 1983 movie, premiered at the Theatre Royal Plymouth in July 2008 prior to a national tour. It features music by Robbie Roth, lyrics Robert Cary and book by Cary and Tom Hedley.
The iconic film starred Jennifer Beals as Alex Owens, an 18-year-old Pittsburgh welder and exotic dancer who dreams of winning a place at a prestigious dance school and becoming a professional ballet dancer. The score features the songs “Maniac” and “Flashdance… What a Feeling” (which won an Academy Award for Best Song) - it also launched a fashion frenzy for torn sweatshirts.
On stage, Alex is played by Victoria Hamilton-Barritt alongside Busted’s Matt Willis, making his West End and professional theatrical debut, as love interest Nick. It’s directed by Nikolai Foster and choreographed by musical theatre veteran and former Strictly Come Dancing judge Arlene Phillips.
Michael Coveney on Whatsonstage.com ★★★★ - "(Flashdance) has transformed an okay movie with a few songs into a pulsating dance show with fourteen new numbers, a tougher narrative, and a well sustained metaphor of the Pittsburgh steel mill as a glorified dance floor … Above all, there is a wonderful central performance by unknown Victoria Hamilton-Barritt as Alex the welder that proclaims a new star is born. Nikolai Foster’s production, designed by Morgan Large, is both exciting and stunningly efficient, with plenty of grime and welders’ sparks, sliding factory doors and brilliant choreography by Arlene Phillips … Phillips’ hand-picked dancers burn up the stage in a series of corporate body-popping moves and modern jazz and dance sequences … it’s a fantastic way of forging a link between the factory and the footlights and, for my money, totally eclipses the two “urban” musicals Flashdance prophesies, The Full Monty and Billy Elliot … The show’s fresh as masonry paint, a full-on power blast, striking sparks, and industrial action, in all directions."
Quentin Letts in the Daily Mail ★★★ - "This musical, based on the 1983 Hollywood film, is not only derivative but also manipulative, hackneyed, sexist, noisy - and shameless good fun … The plot - plot! - is one of those lowering-of-protective-hackles efforts that may have diabetics reaching for their medicine. Sugary … All this is eminently forgettable and formulaic. Not so the show’s star, Victoria Hamilton-Barritt, who plays Alex. What a belter! A beaver’s cheekbones, a gymnast’s physique, a big voice, bigger hair, and enough energy to fuel a Lucozade factory … Alex’s love interest, Nick, is played by Matt Willis of the pop group Busted. He is not the world’s most handsome blade but he has a tidy voice. The production also has some ace choreography by Arlene Phillips and so much movement - whizzing props, hurtling walls, steel-mill sparks - that one’s eye is constantly playing catch-up … Apart from the appallingly trite storyline, this show is much better than it probably need be.”
Michael Billington in the Guardian ★★★ - "In Billy Elliot a miner's son makes it to the Royal Ballet School. And now in Flashdance, based on the 1983 Adrian Lyne movie, we see a female apprentice welder, Alex, getting a place at Pittsburgh's top dance academy. I enjoyed watching her journey and, thanks to Arlene Phillips' choreography and Nikolai Foster's direction, the show brims with physical energy and is full of visual invention. All the same, there are aspects of this blue-collar Cinderella story that don't quite add up … Ultimately, like virtually all American musicals, it becomes a hymn to individualism as proved by lyrics on the lines of: ‘You're only as great as the world you create’ … Phillips' dazzling choreography embraces a wide variety of styles … Foster also directs with great elan giving Robbie Roth's songs, 14 of them specially written for the show, a variety of settings and making good use of split stages, animation and video projections."
Dominic Maxwell in The Times ★★ - "The bulk of the songs, though, are new tunes, by Robbie Roth and Robert Cary. It’s fun to hear them ape the clattery production values of 1983, but they’re functional rather than memorable ... Hamilton-Barritt has to carry the show. She conveys the character’s East Coast flintiness as well as her litheness. But charm is in short supply. Willis, formerly of Busted, is likeable enough, even if the only sparks flying on stage come from the steelworkers’ cutting tools. And Twinnielee Moore, Charlotte Harwood and Hannah Levane become an effective sisterly chorus as Alex’s fellow downtrodden dancers, belting out the title track and Gloria ... The squad of body-poppers do some good work, but the ending is spoilt when they gatecrash Alex’s big dance. There, for once, you want to keep close to the film."
Henry Hitchings in the Evening Standard ★★★ - "In Nikolai Foster’s deft production, with an ingeniously adaptable design by Morgan Large, we’re deep in Eighties revivalism. Yet the show is modern too, as Arlene Phillips’s tight choreography introduces elements of the brilliantly robotic street dance ... It’s a formulaic setup that permits a sentimental celebration of individualism and working-class ambition ... There are 14 new tunes by Robbie Roth, which parade an unsophisticated yet relentlessly efficient form of rock-inflected pop ... As Alex, Victoria Hamilton-Barritt radiates star quality. She’s likeable and sassy, an immensely confident dancer and versatile singer. Also impressive are Hannah Levane and Twinnielee Moore as her fellow club performers, while Charlotte Harwood relishes her role as Gloria ... Ultimately, Flashdance, for all its dazzle, lacks a real imaginative freshness ... Yet it’s a raunchy, crowd-pleasing spectacle which busily delivers both the things its title so brazenly promises."