Like anyone who loves a good pint of cray cray, I was a little let down when Flashdance never made it to Broadway this past summer for whatever reasons they were trotting out (Lack of a theater? Interpersonal conflicts? Fake investors?). Now on the 30th anniversary of the film's release, I am sort of surprised it has taken so long. You would think the story of Alex Owens, a steel-mill worker/exotic dancer whom wants to be a professional dancer, plus a jukebox score of 1980's hits, would have investors/producers creaming themselves as they fast-track the show to Broadway.
Jillian Mueller, come on down - you're the newest addition to my diva list!
Look, I am always in the market for a new girl to love, and Jillian, bless her heart, popped up right on cue. I can't recall the last time I saw something and one performance single-handedly carried the show. Girl was not messing around and for that I. LUV. HUH.
Her Alex is, not-so-hyperbolically speaking, flawless. She's hardened and rough-around-the-edges and BAMF-ey without being an insufferable, pain in the ass. But she is also sweet and girly and vulnerable as she dwells on her ambitions of dancing and falls for her cute, new boss at the mill. The fact that she made those transitions without losing her female-empowering pluckiness - because c'mon, we all hate it when our kick-ass girlies fall in love and forfeit all of their empowering qualities - is what made Mueller awesome, extremely likeable and easy to root for (because she's awesome and extremely likeable).
Jillian also works her ass off (literally). She has a steady stream of intense, high-cardio dance sequences and beltastic numbers that would leave any performer exhausted after one act. But she runs that gauntlet like she owns it and has amazing abs to boot. I was totally inspired to hit the gym the next week before Thanksgiving (and hotel room service) took over. If I put a photo of her abs on my refrigerator, I'd think twice before reaching for that third (or fifth) piece of cheesecake.
The rest of Flashdance is a bit of a mess. Forgettable songs, even though most of them are engrained in our music culture's history. A book containing too many supporting characters and iffy side plots. And while all of Sergio Trujillo's choreography is perfectly fine - great even - his overall vision and direction of the show doesn't measure up, leaving me bored at some times instead of having the fun, bonkersfest that Flashdance practically invented so long ago.
Still, the message and heart of the show is in the right place despite leaving a lot to be desired. And although the Broadway company may do a complete casting overhaul in advance of their run (whenever that may be), I'll save them a decision by informing them to bring along Ms. Mueller for the ride and watch her delight the Broadway crowds every night. Flashdance can be so much fun and provide light entertainment - two descriptors I would usually scoff at, but are totes appropes for this adaption of the critically-panned 80's film. And hey, when Mueller is WERQing, it is fun! Fortunately, that was enough to elevate this production to something enjoyable. Unfortunately, there is a production surrounding her that needs to step it up.
Ticket Provided by the Production
Photo Credit: Broadway Across America