Despite watching Strictly Come Dancing for years, I hadn’t realised what an absolute star Joanne Clifton is.
In the leading role of Pittsburgh welder extraordinaire and aspiring dancer, Alex Owens, she dreams of a better life, a life filled with dance in the days before TV talent shows. Clifton sings, dances and acts her leg warmers off in this stage adaptation of Flashdance written by Tom Hedley, Robert Cary and Robbie Roth, going far beyond any routine we have seen on Strictly from the world champion.
Based on the 1983 hit film, this crowd pleaser of a musical is an early example of girl power as she proves that a working class girl can be better than the guys to win the day. Over more than 30 years since the world fell in love with it, the film still remains iconic.
The original film itself was a surprise box office hit and spawned several hit songs which set dancefloors alight including ‘Maniac’ and the Academy-Award-winning ‘Flashdance…What a Feeling’. I’ve got to admit, I was really looking forward to this show, but the opening number felt a little flat. I’m not sure if it was sound issues or a weak song but you couldn’t really hear the vocals well, which is pretty important when they’re providing the background and narrative to the whole story, so it took a little while to warm to the characters. That said, I’m guessing the audience aren’t necessarily there for the plot, which lets face it, we love it but it’s predictable, no, this is a musical for the MTV generation and they’re there for the big song and choreography classics. I can’t be the only one that went home and tried the dance from Maniac can I?
On the downside, the classics made the numbers written for the show seem lacking. Clifton and Adams shine on their duets ‘Here and Now’ and ‘Hang On’ but many are forgettable and fail to have the energy and catchiness of 80’s pop, with the addition of ‘I love Rock n’ Roll’ being a welcome respite.
Welder by day and dancer by night, we follow the characters journey on her determined mission to join the prestigious Shipley Dance Academy, in an almost Fame prequel type plot. Supported by ageing retired dance teacher Hannah, she scrapes together a living. Love comes in the form of Nick Hurley, the bosses son, played by A1 star, Ben Adams, who also delivers a great vocal performance.
Other standout performances are provided by side plots, we don’t explore the characters too deeply but upbeat 80’s hit ‘Gloria’ is given a melancholy twist as best friend Gloria (Hollie-Ann Lowe) is drawn into the seedy world of lap dancing and drugs whilst her boyfriend, Jimmy is failing to make it as a comedian in New York. Sia Dauda as Kiki and Demmileigh Foster as Tess both put in strong supporting roles.
The fantastic choreography from Matt Cole is exactly what the audience had been waiting for and when the show really comes to life, how many of the performers manage to dance and sing at the same time during athletic routines is amazing.
The industrial set design can seem a little clunky at times but is very 80’s, with digital projections bringing the scenery to life.
The standing ovation which gave the cast time to bust a few moves to the shows key tunes was thoroughly deserved. Guaranteed to have you on your feet either dancing or asking for more!
Theatre Royal Nottingham
Monday 7 – Saturday 12 May 2018
£43 – £19 plus discounts for Members*, Under 16s, Go Card holders** and Groups
www.trch.co.uk 0115 989 5555
By Tanya Louise