Like the plucky heroine at the heart of the story, it's hard to hate Flashdance - The Musical. She might not have the best fashion sense, and there's as much padding in the new songs as there is in some of the outfits her pals wear, but her heart's in the right place.
Based on the hit 80s movie, the musical has kept enough of the iconic imagery (torn sweatshirt, leg warmers, bucket of water splashed over silhouetted body) to please those looking for a nostalgia fix. But book co-writer Tom Hedley, who also helped pen the screenplay, has boosted the class theme, deepened relationships and added a solid B plot.
Orphan Alex (Sydney Morton) works as a welder in a steel plant and moonlights dancing at a cabaret, while she dreams of one day becoming a legit dancer. The plant's upper-class boss, Nick (a bland Corey Mach), falls in love with her, and he's faced with making severe cutbacks. (One of the few relevant things about the adaptation is the economy.) Meanwhile, the strip club down the street from the cabaret wants to hire new dancers, and Alex's friend Gloria (Ginna Claire Mason) is tempted.
Most of the new songs sound generic - there's nothing as catchy as the film's Maniac or the title track, given a clever and touching treatment near the end. And the added subplot about Gloria and her aspiring stand-up boyfriend Jimmy (David R. Gordon) merely distracts from the main narrative. Their songs are so unnecessary they nearly induce eye-rolling.
And you know you've got a serious problem when you can't tell the raunchy cabaret and the strip club apart.
But Morton is a dynamo, with a clear voice, flexible body and a ton of presence. Whether in the spotlight in a fierce solo or sharing one of several inspired street dance sequences (choreographed by Sergio Trujillo), she just about holds the show together.