What a feeling! A rush of the 80s at its absolute finest comes thundering into Baltimore as NETworks presents a brand new musical Flashdance-The Musical. Landing at The Hippodrome Theatre as a part of the Baltimore Broadway series through Broadway Across America, this flashy new stage production is a lively pumping music that takes us back to the days of the drum machine.
An exhilarating stage adaptation of the 1983 film that defined a generation, the story revolves around Alex Ownes, a steel mill welder by day and a bar dancer by night with the dreams of one day dancing professionally. Romantic entanglements with the boss of the steel mill turns Alex’s world upside down and teaches her about the powers of love and just what it means to chase your dreams. With a score featuring the hit songs from the movie as well as 16 brand new songs written with music by Robbie Roth and lyrics by Robert Cary and Robbie Roth, this production is a smashing sensation that gets the audience to their feet pumping to the beat!
Directed and Choreographed by Sergio Trujillo, there is a pulsating electricity to the feeling of this musical, driving the beat in every number with a sensational ensemble, extremely talented soloists and the raw feeling of an MTV recording that wends its way through the production. The performances are never lacking in energy and it’s an all around feel good musical with an upbeat atmosphere that radiates out into the audience, giving the feeling of being at a live rock concert or on the set of the latest music video.
Scenic Designer Klara Zieglerova builds up the harsh industrial feel to the performance with the iron scaffolding and segmented performance boxes on various tiers. Each of the set pieces flows flawlessly in and out of synch giving the show a complex Broadway feel to it without compromising the integrity of what’s actually happening on the stage. Working in conjunction with Projection Designer Peter Nigrini, Zieglerova highlights key moments of the 80’s dance and club scene, using Nigrini’s imagery projected onto multiple surfaces throughout the show. The overall effect achieved in this design process is intense; an aesthetic shock to keep your heart racing with the epic beat of the show.
Lighting Designer Howell Binkley upholds this same standard of results in his work as he creates thumping blinking strobes and flashes to accentuate, in particular, the dance action as it happens throughout the performance. Howell’s bright poppy use of purples and pinks during the Chameleon Club scene as well as the stark blinding white flashes for Alex’s signature water scene from the movie create a stunning visual effect for all to behold and fit seamlessly into the set and projection designs of the production.
Trujillo is a genius in his choreographic skills, combining moves that are the epitome of the 80’s genre into a fast-paced hip-hop style, often juxtaposing these routines against ballet segments and occasionally fusing the two together creating a brilliant hybrid of classical dancing with that rough electric edge to it. Creating intense routines for the full ensemble including break dancing moves of the street, Trujillo provides a variety of steps which enthralls the audience. And when he scales back the number of dancers, to the quartet in “Put It On” the dances are no less intense, if anything they’re more intricate and complex. Synchronization becomes flawless in bigger numbers like “My Next Step” and there is always someone flipping over something adding that extra acrobatic jolt to the routines.
A musical with this much energy would not be a success without a strong ensemble and the cast of this production provides all that and a powerful punch of pizzazz to everything they sing and dance. Their routines are off the hook and out of this world but their voices never lose their drive, especially not in numbers where they are supporting the soloists like “Steeltown Sky” and “Justice.” The male ensemble in particular has flawless intonation for “Justice” and you can hear them quite clearly in “My Turn.”
A flavorful addition to the plotline is the mentor figure Hannah (JoAnn Cunningham.) With the salty humor of an old battle ax and the temperament to match Cunningham is wise and cranky in the same moment, providing an edge of comic relief and tempered advice. Her physical presentation of a woman in pain is convincing while her voice sings with a weathered sound that gives her story grounding in reality. Given just one song, “Hannah’s Answer” she rises to the challenge with dignity and grace and is an essential part of the show.
Stealing the spotlight with their boisterous personalities are Tess (Rachelle Rak) and Kiki (Dequina Moore.) Backup style performers to Alex in Harry’s club these two femme fatales bring a high-spirited sexually charged energy that could blow fuses from miles away. Rak rages with a primal energy in “I Love Rock And Roll” stomping around the stage and slamming her body down the fire pole like she was lightning descended from on high. And Moore posses a rumbling thunder in her whole body when she starts stomping about to “Manhunt.”
Together the pair have exquisite and blasting voices that will knock you back into your seat, mellowing into the comical more campy notions of 80’s music in the sassy showgirl number “Put It On.” Their characters provide great moments of comic relief while maintaining a level-headed reality about them throughout the production. Both Rak and Moore possess the dancing gene as if they invented it and when they throw their bodies into their respective solos you can feel the stage shaking with their tremendous efforts.
Offsetting these dynamic divas is ditzy bubbly Gloria (Kelly Felthous). With a chipper disposition and a slightly flighty charm her character plays the best friend to the leading female. With big dreams and a pure voice she is the perfect accent to the production. Her vocal duet “Remember Me” with Jimmy (David R. Gordon) is a breathtaking example of her pristine sound, sweet hopeful emotion radiating from each note against his soulful raw emotions. The pair have a fun and nonsensical romance that bubbles with cute chemistry whilst harboring darker notions of their own self importance. Felthous shakes her money maker with pride during her solo bit of “My Next Step” and again, though much more darkly in “Chameleon Girls.” A brilliant multi-talented addition to the cast.
Two more enchanting stunning singers you could not find for filling the leading roles in this production than Emily Padgett (Alex) and Matthew Hydzik (Nick). Their sheer vocal prowess is stunning and emotionally gorgeous, especially during various duets like “Hang On” and “Here And Now.” The pair are the impeccable example of ‘love-at-first-sight,’ a deep passion shared between them physically emotionally and vocally as they progress through the story.
Hydzik presents the audience with glistening pure vocals from his arrival in “Steeltown Sky” and never looks back. Despite fitting the bill of ‘pretty boy’ in looks his voice is emotionally fortified for numbers like “Justice” and his stunning release of feelings into “Here And Now” is matched only by Padgett as they both sing from the depths of their soul. His character is a rich warm all encompassing notion of love and frustration, hope and happiness, Hydzik grounds his performance in a reality that kisses the clouds while enchanting the audience; a stunning sensation for this role.
Padgett is simply phenomenal – there is no better word for it. A deeply tormented character balancing her deepest desires of becoming a true dancer verses the harsh reality of her life and doing so with vocal precision worthy of many awards, her performance brings the audience to tears and thunderous applause. Shining with the perfect equilibrium of reality and optimism in numbers like “Just Out of Reach” and “My Next Step” she exudes every emotion a heart could contain whilst hitting every note with crystal clarity and a ferocious force that blows the audience away. And she simply takes the crown when it comes to dancing, thrusting all of those vocal emotions into her body for every complex routine from her Rocky Boxing-Dance number to the rapid fire toe steps during “Maniac” she burns up the stage with feeling. Padgett is an amazing performer and literally blows everyone away with her incredible voice and ability to master the role.
You’d be a maniac to miss this production while it’s in town! So boogie down to the most happening 80’s event in town!
Running Time: Two hours and 30 minutes, with one intermission.
Flashdance-The Musical plays through THIS SUNDAY, February 17, 2013 at The Hippodrome Theatre as part of the Hippodrome Broadway Series. The Hippodrome is located at 12 North Eutaw Street, in downtown Baltimore, MD. For tickets, call the box office at (410) 547-7328, or purchase them online.
Watch a preview video.
Flashdance-The Musical website.