Review: Flashdance (Mirvish)

The beloved 80s film receives a much anticipated stage revival at the Ed Mirvish Theatre in Toronto

Flashdance-Pic1If you’re considering Flashdance: The Musical currently playing at the Ed Mirvish Theatre, you’re probably a fan of the 80s film. I am. I get warm fuzzies just thinking about it—one of a dozen feel good movies from that decade (like Footloose and Dirty Dancing) that wanted to be musicals.

Now, Flashdance gets to be one! It has exploded out of its quiet, restrained shell to drench you in dazzling set pieces. I can’t help but frame this as a comparison to the film. I think you should know (especially if you’re very attached to the aesthetic of the movie) that this is a very different creature.

Alex is a welder by day, a club dancer by night. She’s got raw talent and dreams of a dancing career. She’s encouraged by her mentor, Hannah (a former ballet dancer) and some friends who work with her at the club: Jimmie (a cook who wants to be a comic) and Gloria (a waitress who wants to be an actress). Along the way, she becomes romantically involved with her boss, Nick, who is inheriting the steel mill that employs her.

The story has a distinctly 80s charm: slim characterizations, a simple and uplifting narrative that highlights the American Dream. (If you just go for it, you’ll succeed!) All of these characters have dreams, but they are considerably more fleshed out here. The film presents very simple—almost stock—characters so that it never feels too weighty. It focuses on Alex and lets the energy of the music and good vibes carry it along. Here, we spend a lot more time with secondary characters.

There is a multitude of subplots about job cuts at the steel mill, about Nick wanting to connect to his blue collar employees, about the aging Hannah and her homecare nurse… we see far less of Alex here than I expected.

But this version isn’t really about her. It’s about the spectacle of all that singing and dancing and shared dreams. There are a few iconic moments from the film reinvented for the stage. (My heart skipped a beat when Alex gets doused in water.) But don’t let these fool you, this is not the Flashdance you fell in love with. Once I let go of my memories of the film and just went with it, I had a great time!

Sydney Morton’s Alex is bold and street-wise. Her bad girl exterior is a sharp contrast to Jennifer Beals‘ more soft-spoken and gentle characterization. Instead of retreating into herself, this Alex masks her fear of failure with a cocky persona.

I particularly enjoyed the feistiness of Madeleine Doherty’s Hannah. In the film, the character is frail and quiet, but here she’s a quick-witted smart-ass.

I loved the cool, industrial look—metallic flats and stairs glide in and out with the action. Klara Zieglerova (scenic designer) keeps the textures of the steel mill looming in every scene, but it’s softened by vibrant video projections that flesh out the various urban environments.

Sergio Trujillo’s direction and choreography are standard fare, but dynamic and compelling nonetheless. There’s plenty of eye candy and classic 80s pop tunes. Even the original songs have an authentic 80s sound, so there’s great nostalgic value here.

If you love flashy musicals, this show aims to please you! If you’re a hard-core fan of the film, be prepared for something less gentle and more garish.

Details:

  • Flashdance is playing at the Ed Mirvish Theatre (244 Victoria Street) until June 8.
  • Shows run Tuesday to Sunday, please check performance schedule for specific showtimes
  • Tickets are $40 to $175
  • Tickets can be purchased online, by phone (416.872.1212), or at the venue (244 Victoria Street)

Photo courtesy of the company.

 

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