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Review: 'Flashdance – the Musical' is all over the place at Stage Door Theatre

Correspondent

If an early MTV music video and a movie musical had a baby, it would look and sound like the 1983 hit film “Flashdance.”

A romantic fantasy built on more than its share of clichés, the movie was driven by its propulsive soundtrack and flashy dance sequences, particularly the one in which Jennifer Beals as steelworker-turned-club dancer Alexandra “Alex” Owens gets waterlogged and wild as she proves that even a plain ol’ chair can become an exotic prop.

Inevitably (though not for 25 years), the movie spawned “Flashdance – the Musical.” Although the show hasn’t made it to Broadway, a touring version was part of the Broward Center’s Broadway series in 2013. And now, Margate’s Stage Door Theatre is having a go at trying to get audiences lost in the poor-gal-makes-good fantasy.

Staged by Paul O’Donnell, the show plays out on a two-level set by Jodi Dellaventura and Natalie Torres. With different styles of staircases stage right and stage left, the actors are forever running up to the second level (which becomes the office at Pittsburgh’s Hurley Steel, where Alex works by day as a welder, as well as the dressing room of the club where she works at night as a dancer and the home of the elderly retired dancer who has been her mentor) and down to the first (which becomes Alex’s apartment, the audition area of the Shipley Academy of Dance, the club where Alex and her pals perform, and the bustling work area of Hurley Steel).

Even if the cast weren’t dancing so hard, the actors would stay in shape with their up-and-down workout. Lighting designer Ardean Landhuis helps focus the audience’s attention amid all that mad dashing.

With a book by Tom Hedley and Robert Cary (Hedley co-wrote the screenplay with Joe Eszterhas), original songs by composer Robbie Roth, lyrics by Cary and Roth, plus some of the movie’s featured songs (the Oscar-winning “What a Feeling,” “Maniac,” “Gloria,” “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll,” “Manhunt”), “Flashdance – the Musical” plays more like a collage created by a committee than a coherent piece of musical theater.

The clichés are abundant: Alex’s pal Gloria (Emily Senn) and her aspiring comic boyfriend, Jimmy (Steddy Amory), chase their dreams, only to come crashing down to earth. The kindly dance club owner Harry (Josh Nelson) is a good guy, while the exploitative strip club owner, C.C. (Sean Dorazio), is a drug-supplying villain. Sassy Alex (Abby Perkins) is too proud to date her smitten boss, Nick Hurley (Devon A.A. Norris), but she soon caves. You get the picture.

What Stage Door’s “Flashdance” has going for it is a company of strong singers under David Nagy’s musical direction and stylish dancers performing Isabele Trelles’ choreography.

Perkins, a good dancer (though not the strongest in the cast), is a compelling performer whose rocking soprano and way with a ballad make the audience root for Alex to leave her welder’s garb behind and make it as a legit dancer. Norris looks more like the scion of a wealthy family than a musical theater leading man, but his rich voice stands out on his solos and duets with Perkins, and he persuasively conveys Nick’s self-doubt.

Senn is a pitiable yet likable figure with a killer voice as Gloria, Jaclyn Juola is a take-no-prisoners Tess on “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll,” and Vickie Anderson gets her standout moment as Kiki in the kinky “Manhunt” (though more than once, her booming vocals wander slightly off key). Amory is convincing as the hopeless “comedian” Jimmy. Fern Katz is endearing as Alex’s mentor, Hannah, and Francine Birns displays the perfect comic timing that Jimmy lacks as Hannah’s wisecracking nurse, Louise. Ensemble member Kellyanna Polk brings balletic beauty into the otherwise MTV-style dance mix.

Jerry Sturdefant contributes the leotards and leg warmers as well as the other ’80s-style outfits, reminding us that the era wasn’t a fashion pinnacle. Sound engineer Rushnay Henry at first seems to be delivering songs at ear-blaster level, but thankfully, the show has more sonic variety as it proceeds.

Some of the staging, such as having the “steelworkers” fold and unfold green ladders to suggest men (and a couple of women) at work, makes for head-scratching moments. But when Perkins (who does get drenched at the end of the first act) and Norris are singing, “Flashdance” fleetingly becomes another, better show.

“Flashdance – the Musical” runs through Feb. 11 at Stage Door Theatre, 8036 W. Sample Road, in Margate. Showtimes are 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 2 p.m. Wednesday and Saturday-Sunday. Tickets cost $48. To order, call 954-344-7765 or go to StageDoorFl.org.

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