A 1980s pop culture explosion can be found at the Schuster Center with the presence of the national tour of “Flashdance – The Musical” courtesy of the Victoria Theatre Association’s Premier Health Broadway Series.
It’s quickly apparent how important nostalgia is to the appeal of this middling adaptation of the 1983 film of the same name set in and around a steel mill in blue-collar Pittsburgh. The Schuster lobby contains various images of the Greed Decade from Culture Club to Cabbage Patch Kids and the show curtain recalls MTV’s glory days. But eye-catching distractions can’t disguise the show’s weaknesses, specifically its mediocre score (music by Robbie Roth with lyrics by Roth and Robert Cary) and predictable, uneven and humdrum book (co-written by Cary and original co-screenwriter Tom Hedley). The score in particular, a flimsy attempt at pop pastiche evoking Debbie Gibson, Michael Jackson, Billy Joel, Kenny Loggins, the Pointer Sisters, and more, is startlingly forgettable despite inserting pop/rock classics “What a Feeling,” “Maniac,” “Manhunt,” “Gloria,” and “I Love Rock ‘N’ Roll.” Conceptual concerns extend to director/choreographer Sergio Trujillo whose attempts to fill the stage with skin (and there’s a lot of it in a PG-13 sense akin to “Rock of Ages”) feels desperate and borders on overkill.
As Alexandra “Alex” Owens, the welder/exotic dancer who longs to become a professional performer, the fiery and feisty Karli Dinardo dances and sings terrifically but doesn’t evolve beyond the surface. As Alex’s conflicted boss-turned-boyfriend Nick Hurley, excellent tenor Adam J. Rennie (bringing to mind Matthew Morrison of “Glee”) has a tendency to become stiff and detached in his book scenes but is more adept in his musical numbers. As Alex’s friends, Heidi Friese (Gloria), Brianna-Marie Bell (Kiki) and Danielle Marie Gonzalez (Tess) embody their roles with energy and personality. The sensitive Friese, believably fueling Gloria’s yearning for pop stardom, notably has a dramatic arc that manages to be more heartrending than Alex’s journey, one of the book’s odd flaws. Patricia Bartlett (Hannah), Jacob Tischler (Jimmy), Randy Charleville (C.C.), Michael Kingston (Harry), and Ryan J. MacConnell (Andy) lend amiable support. The artistic team of scenic designer Klara Zieglerova, costumer Paul Tazewell, lighting designer Howell Binkley, projection designer Peter Nigrini, and sound designer Kevin Kennedy is first-rate. Conductor Eric Fotre Leach leads a vibrant, well-balanced seven-piece orchestra.
“Flashdance” is tailor-made for Generation X but misses the mark at its core.
“Flashdance – The Musical” continues through Jan. 25 at the Schuster Center, Second and Main Streets, Dayton. Performances are today and Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 2 and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 and 7:30 p.m. Act One: 70 minutes; Act Two: 55 minutes. Tickets are $25-$97. For tickets or more information, call Ticket Center Stage at (937) 228-3630 or visit www.ticketcenterstage.com. Patrons are advised the show contains adult situations and themes.