You know, it feels like there’s a rift in space and time leading back to the 1980s. Here in the UK, we seem to have brought Margaret Thatcher back in her cruel flesh in the form of Theresa May. Overseas, America seems to have recouped Ronald Reagan in Donald Trump – albeit a version reflected on the back of a spoon and much worse than Spitting Image could ever dream of. We also have Star Wars back, so at least there’s that.
And then there was Flashdance: The Musical, expertly recreating the 1980s movie aesthetic of the original in the 21st Century. I’ve never seen the original movie that Tom Hedley & Robert Cary’s West End musical is based on, knowing it only through the soundtrack taking up most of my gym playlist, so I already knew a good portion of the soundtrack through osmosis. The original soundtrack in the musical, as opposed to the movie, felt a little too High School Musical. Not that the likes of Troy and his funny basketball antics (yet another film I haven’t seen) is bad, it just felt ill-fitting and flavourless amongst the likes of She’s a Maniac and What a Feeling. This ties into another very minor issue – the sound mixing in the first half of the show was off to the point of making a lot of the musical numbers lyrically unintelligible, which isn’t so much a problem thanks to the excellent score, but in a musical where exposition comes from the songs, it was a little distracting.
However, I absolutely loved Rikki Chamberlain’s performance as Harry, the owner of the eponymous bar the protagonist Alex Owens dances in. The Scottish actor was channelling Danny Devito circa Twins and really stole the show, to the point of Chamberlain getting the loudest cheer during his solo dance in the encore. Not to detract from the main choreography – of course, the dancing part of Flashdance! The performance cast Strictly alumnus Joanne Clifton as Alex, carrying the musical with a wide-eyed ferocity in her dancing. And she did the Flashdance water thing, too! She did the thing!
As but a poor young journalist, Flashdance was the highest production value show I’ve been to in my life. The tremendous modular broken-brick and billowing smoke sets of 1980s Pittsburgh, and the lorry-sized “FLASHDANCE” logo floating in the middle of the stage to introduce the show was just a portent of the neon extravaganza that Flashdance: The Musical was. I’ve now spent all of today mumbling the lyrics to Gloria, the climactic number from the Musical’s very-special-episode style cocaine addiction subplot (which felt right out of the D.A.R.E campaign’s PSA videos. I learned it from watching you etc.).
Help me, Leftlion, because I’m worried I’m becoming a wine mum swirling with leotard memories of her best years.
Flashdance plays at Nottingham's Theatre Royal until Saturday 12 May 2018.