“Flashdance the Musical” is currently running at the Patchogue Theatre for the Performing Arts and it is one of the most average shows I’ve seen in recent years.
It is a stage adaptation of the 1983 film, “Flashdance,” which was disliked by critics immensely, but it nevertheless became a pop culture phenomenon, grossing over $200 million dollars at the box office while receiving a 35 percent on Rotten Tomatoes.
Having never seen the original film, I cannot say whether the musical is an improvement, but I can say that the show’s flaws prevented me from taking any interest in the source material. On the other hand, the people I attended the show with and most of the audience seemed to love it, so there may be something that eluded me.
“Flashdance the Musical” is the story of Alexandra (Alex) Owens, who during the day is a steel welder with a passion for dancing and a dream of getting accepted into a dancing academy. During the night, she is a dancer at a strip club that is steadily losing business, because a nearby newly opened strip club has more sexually explicit dancing. It might be of interest to mention that Alex is played by Julia Macchio, the daughter of Ralph Macchio, the original Karate Kid. She develops a romance with Nick Hurley, the owner of the factory she works in.
This is a simple story, but it is incredibly underdeveloped. The romance between Alex and Nick is superficial — she hates him at first sight because she thinks he’s a greedy capitalist, but as soon as he pays her a few compliments, she swoons.
The two go through the typical motions of a Broadway show romance — they fall in love, then break up in the second act over some problem, and reunite in the final — contributing nothing new or original to the formula.
The subplots overshadow Alex’s main storyline. The climax of the show should be Alex’s audition, but the way it plays out is not exciting and lacks visual appeal. Instead, the scene that draws more attention is the one where Alex, Nick and Jimmy break into the new strip club to drag Gloria away from her pole. This scene comes complete with intense music, brawling, and bright and animated neon screens.
Sprinkled throughout the story are large, lavish strip club numbers that slow down the plot, taking away from an already very thin story. However, these numbers do feature entertaining dance sequences that display the marvelous athletic capabilities of the human body, even if they capitalize on the sexualization of the female body. The great disco music that supports these numbers is definitely one of the show’s better aspects. It includes ‘80s staples like “What a Feeling” and “I Love Rock & Roll,” which complement the energetic dances.
It is hard to evaluate the actors’ performances in “Flashdance the Musical” because of one aspect — the sound design. The actors’ microphones repeatedly failed to magnify their voices properly and as such I had trouble hearing the dialogue. It was so terrible that I had to look at my Playbill after the show to learn Jimmy’s name — unfortunate, since he is one of the main characters. The music, while admittedly invigorating, often overpowered the actors’ voices and made it even harder to hear what they were saying. Consequently, I can’t judge the actors’ ability to project. Their facial expressions and movements, however, suggested that they all did competent jobs.
The final 15 minutes of the show seemed to be everyone’s favorite, as the entire audience, for the first time, stood up and even began to sing along. I felt out of place, wondering why the people around me seemed to love what I viewed as mediocre.
“Flashdance the Musical” will be running at the Patchogue Theatre until Sept. 15.