Arts » Theater + Dance

Review: Flashdance the Musical at Clowes

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Jillian Mueller plays Alex Owens in the national tour of Flashdance.
  • Jillian Mueller plays Alex Owens in the national tour of Flashdance.

Alex Owens dreams of becoming a ballet dancer. It fuels her passion to attend a ballet academy despite working as a welder in a steel mill by day and as a dancer in a bar at night. I might be the only person alive who hasn't seen the 1983 film that made oversized sweatshirts drooping off one shoulder a fashion statement and "What A Feeling" a standard.

So this might be why I'm missing some of the nuances. Why doesn't Alex act upon her dream as a child enamored by the ballet? What's the relationship between Alex and the aged ballerina she visits and why does Alex bring her money?.

Perhaps the thin singing, unclear diction and muddled sound also make it hard to grasp what's going on. And perhaps, given the the fast-paced, jump-around, cinematic juxtaposing of events and scenes in Pittsburgh circa 30 years ago, the creators weren't particularly concerned with plot or character motivation.

Punctuated by gut-busting dancing across a swath of styles, the story does make a clear case for the dedication it takes to study ballet and succeed. You can't just walk in and do it, like copying moves by street dancers. For a cutting-edge final exam, Alex merges her ability as a break-dancer with her newly acquired aspects of classical ballet. It's a lovely moment.

The themes of passion, hardship, optimism and hope play out in the lives of multiple other characters, including love stories fraught with angst, a large dose of skin in the battle of the clubs and a bit of soul searching along the way to inheriting a steel mill. Producers are still tinkering with the script before presenting the musical on Broadway.

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