It’s always exciting to see a musical for the first time. Flashdance has just opened at The Shaftesbury Theatre and after hearing all the hype I was looking forward to seeing it. Unfortunately it didn’t live up to my expectations, and definitely didn’t live up to Hairspray (the last musical I saw at The Shaftesbury).
I booked tickets for a Saturday 3 o’clock matinee... which seemed like a good idea – tickets tend to be slightly cheaper and it is less likely that I will fall asleep from exhaustion (as I increasingly do at evening shows!) When we arrived I was delighted to find that our (cheap, Grand Circle) tickets, had been upgraded to top price Stalls tickets. I was initially ultra smug about this, before realising that in fact this meant the show was likely to not be selling very well, hence all the empty seats. This was the first suggestion that the show may not be as fabulous as I hoped.
It starts with a bang, of light, music and movement. No-one can deny this production has overwhelming energy throughout. I enjoyed the electrifying atmosphere initially, but as the show went on and continued to grow more and more deafeningly loud, I began to feel like I was in a nightclub, and one with bad music at that! (Druggy criminals and skimpy outfits included.) It isn’t all bad, there is the odd recognisable song, ‘What a Feeling’ and ‘She’s a Mania’, both quite enjoyable, and sung well.
Arlene Phillips should be commended, she really is a wonder with her choreography; it is quite astounding when you think that Phillips, who is now 67 years old, can still think up routines as contemporary and complex as those seen in Flashdance. Strictly Come Dancing were silly to let her go, her judging was their biggest asset. The dancers are good in Flashdance, some are very good, but the narrative is dull and this makes even the dancing boring after a while. In fact the plot is very similar to Billy Elliot – the heroine Alex Owens works in a Pittsburgh steel mill by day and as a dancer in a showbar at night, with the ambition of becoming a professional ballet dancer.
Alex Owens was played by Twinnielee Moore, although the part is normally taken on by Victoria Hamilton-Barritt. Moore is a competent enough dancer, but the sentimental acting sort of ruins her part for me. Also in the cast is Matt Willis (from boy band Busted), who I’m sure will excite the younger girls in the audience!
The feel-good ending is rushed and insincere, leaving the audience with a bitter aftertaste; I left feeling a bit cheated. Flashdance is similar to Dirty Dancing and Fame, and the dancing talent definitely compares to these shows, but unfortunately the direction and songs do not, and I predict this will shorten its run in the West End.
Book tickets here.