Leg warmers, ripped fishnets and bleached denim are back on stage in the iconic 80s story Flashdance.
But in a surprising, but welcome, twist, the creative team behind the musical have rejected the temptation to throw in too many eighties-tastic clichés and have ventured down a subtler route, giving the cast their chance to shine without so much as a shoulder pad for distraction.
Those expecting a nostalgic visit back to the days when Duran Duran ruled the airwaves and yo-yos were cool need not worry. Flashdance’s famous soundtrack is there in its entirety, with Maniac, Gloria and Flashdance (What A Feeling!) belted out by a cast that has an abundance of energy and enthusiasm. There are perms a plenty and Victoria Hamilton-Barritt, as our heroine Alex, looks like she has stepped right out of The Bangles. But Arlene Philips’s choreography is modern and fresh, keeping the appeal of the production firmly in the present.
The story of Alex – welder by day, dancer by night – and her journey to her audition for a prestigious Pittsburgh dance school, is retold using an exhilarating mix of breakdance, hip-hop, ballet and contemporary dance. Alex and her equally dance obsessed friends Gloria, Keisha and Jazmin work in a bar run by their permanently flustered boss; the quaint, run-down dressing room contrasting with the neon lights and white interior of the strip club a few doors down.
At the centre of the story is the budding love affair between Alex and her new, young boss Nick Hurley. Former Busted star Matt Willis makes his West End debut as the bumbling, rich kid from the other side of town, who ultimately turns out to be anything but. What Willis lacks in experience and strength of voice, he makes up with leading man charisma and a committed, well-acted performance. But unquestionably, Hamilton-Barritt steals the show, portraying Alex as an unsung feminist icon, frustrated daughter – played opposite an excellent Sarah Ingram as her bohemian mother – and feisty girlfriend. Her voice, while not as pretty as other leading ladies, has a quality that perfectly fits her character and brings a much-needed edge.
Flashdance The Musical is a show with edge – well, as much edge as anything with a dancing cop wearing aviator sunglasses – with drugs, crime, sex and rock n roll a plenty. But as with all good musicals you leave feeling uplifted, having witnessed a good old fashioned tale of female friendship, romance and, of course, what can happen when you choose to believe in yourself.