As I remember the 1980s, I must admit to cringing a bit when I see the decade celebrated with such enthusiasm by younger people who weren’t old enough to remember sweatbands, legwarmers breakdancing, radio cassette players and the birth of MTV.
The selling point for Flashdance-The Musical, playing this week at Cardiff’s New Theatre for me was the fact that despite never seeing the 1983 film, I was aware of some of the soundtrack songs featured in it. I was also keen to see the on stage combination of Strictly Come Dancing star Joanne Clifton and former A1 singer/songwriter Ben Adams
A multi-layered plot, Flashdance – The Musical tells the story of 18-year-old Alex, a welder by day and ‘flashdancer’ by night, who dreams of going to the prestigious Shipley Dance Academy and becoming a professional dancer. Beside Alex, is her friend Gloria, who works as a waitress but also has desires for fame and fortune. “I don’t have that much talent that’s why I’m going to be on television,” Gloria tells Alex as she reasons not joining the academy. Both girls have romances, Alex’ boss Nick Hurley is attempting to woo her, but Alex is keen to stay focused on her dancing while Gloria has a relationship with rising comic Jimmy, who has dreams of making it in New York on his own.
Spectacular, sensational and sassy, Flashdance unravels both girls contrasting dream-chasing stories through the mediums of high energy dance performance and song.
Joanne Clifton simply dazzles as she spins, turns and sparkles as the funky but feisty Alex. Her mesmerising energy is set to top gear from the moment she takes the song Maniac from the privacy of her bedsit to the spectator gaze of the dance floor,. Her energy shows no sign of slowing down for the remainder of the show. Clifton of course isn’t just called upon to dance, the audience get a sense of real drama and raw emotion, with her performance of Try.
Female distractions probably don’t come much bigger than Ben Adams as Nick Hurley. Adams still retaining some of his boyish looks from his A1 days mixes in some rugged charm to give a great performance as Alex’ potential suitor. Fans will be delighted that he gets to duet with Joanne Clifton on Here and Now and Hang On, while taking the solo on 245mm Enough.
The limelight isn’t completely taken by the shows two leads. Colin Kiyani as wannabe comic Jimmy has some fun and seriously challenging moments in the plot, all of which he adapts to with ease.
Hollie Ann Lowe gives a wonderfully sensitive portrayal of Gloria, adding irony to her own theme song as Gloria’s quest to follow her dream meets with disastrous consequences allowing the audience to witness her true sense of her despair.
The ensemble cast shine even further with two nightclub dancefloor routines. Demmileigh Foster as Tess leads a raucous and rousing rendition of I Love Rock N Roll while Sia Dauda sizzles as Kiki performing Manhunt.
Flashdance also has its share in comic moments provided by Alex’ mentor Hannah, portrayed wonderfully by Carol Ball and her sidekick Louise played by Sasha Latoya, who goes on to make an unexpected vocal reveal in the shows climax. Popular also is Rikki Chamberlain whose portrayal of club proprietor Harry is as endearing as it is funny.
An uplifting and feelgood show, Flashdance-The Musical’s signature song, What A Feeling sums up the productions positive nature and is very much a strong message now as it was in the 1980s. “Take your passion and make it happen,” that can be applied to almost anything in life, we just need to believe it
- Flashdance – The Musical runs at Cardiff’s New Theatre until Saturday.