Review – Flashdance the Musical – Tunbridge Wells

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Joanne Clifton – credit Brian Hartley

Although the original 1983 film version of Flashdance boasted a huge soundtrack, including Gloria, Maniac, I Love Rock and Roll, as well as the million-selling title track and took over $200 million at the box office, it wasn’t a huge hit with the critics at the time and, in this musical version, there are hints as to why.

The show is based on the real life story of Maureen Marder, a construction worker/welder by day and dancer, in a Toronto strip club, by night. If the production just concentrated on that story it might be a more rounded piece but, with side stories of a rival club, a failed comedian, a wannabe star who falls into a life of drugs and alcohol,  an old lady who is Alex’s inspiration, redundancies at the factory, together with the main love story, the piece is  disjointed and some of the more important moments are glossed over far too quickly.

Another issue, on the opening night at the Assembly Hall Theatre, is a massive technical fault that, just a few minutes into the show, halts proceedings for 15 minutes. Joanne Clifton, as Alex Owens, deals with the pause perfectly by restarting with the line, “So, as you were saying 15 minutes ago”, which breaks the tension and eases everyone back into the tale.

Clifton is a revelation in the lead role. Not only is she the 2016 Strictly Come Dancing champion, but also an incredible singer and a feisty actress too. She works very hard in her role and, is totally believable in her relationship with Ben Adams as her boss, Nick Hurley.

Adams himself shows off his amazing voice, and some serious acting skills, as the spoilt rich kid who suddenly finds himeself in charge of making cuts at the factory. Again, he works very hard in his role and gives all he can in the dance numbers too.

Throughout the piece Matt Cole’s choreography is extremely tight and slick, the scene changes quick and perfectly executed and, although there are a few moments when it’s not quite right, the lighting design works well to enhance the production. The five piece live band, led by George Carter, create a full sound without it becoming overpowering.

Although, at times, the piece is a little disjointed, with crystal clear powerful vocals, stunning dance routines and a soundtrack containing some very memorable 80’s blockbusters, all repeated in the “megamix” finale, it provides a very entertaining night out.

****               Four Stars

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About Author

I have lived in Sussex for the past 15 years and have links with many of the arts venues throughout the county. I am passionate about the local arts scene and, as well as providing reviews of local performances, I also preview some of the exciting shows and events taking place around the county. I have devoted all of my working life to the worlds of theatre and travel so, when I am not on holiday somewhere, you can usually find me at one of our superb local theatres, or simply enjoying life with my young son.

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