Gotta dance! Good thing, too, because dancing’s definitely what puts the flash in “Flashdance: The Musical,” which continues through Sunday at The Smith Center for the Performing Arts.
Yet another who-needs-it musical based on a past movie hit, at least “Flashdance” has a built-in reason to sing and dance.
Long before it reached its inevitably upbeat “What a Feeling!” climax, however, I found myself wondering, “What am I feeling?”
The answers range from pleasant nostalgia to borderline boredom — especially when “Flashdance” strands us in a morass of been-there, seen-that melodrama.
But at least we know what’s ahead: another impressive dance number to rescue us, and the musical, from its sporadic torpor.
For those who’ve forgotten the early-’80s “Flashdance” era — back when people bopped to the sound of boomboxes, made telephone calls on quaint devices known as public telephones and watched actual music videos on MTV — the show provides a convenient reminder, even before it begins, with a video montage setting the stage.
The videos continue flowing throughout the show, Peter Nigrini’s atmospheric projections combining with Klara Zieglerova’s sliding-panel scenic designs to provide the persuasive outlines of “Flashdance” heroine Alex Owens’ world.
You remember Alex (Jillian Mueller). Plucky, painfully young and painfully aware of her humble origins, but determined to forge a new destiny through her dual identities: steel welder by day, bar dancer by night. (Don’t laugh — or at least try not to. “Flashdance” doesn’t.)
Alex dreams of trading street dancing for a more formal pursuit of her art at swanky Shipley Academy — with the encouragement of her best friend Gloria (Ginna Claire Mason) and their two sisters in bump-and-grind, sassy Tess (Alison Ewing) and even sassier Kiki (DeQuina Moore), all of whom strut their stuff at a neighborhood joint run by the avuncular Harry (Steve Greenstein).
Meanwhile, back at Hurley Steel, there’s a new guy on the factory floor: Nick Hurley (earnest Corey Mach), scion of the mill’s owners, who’s there to learn the business from the bottom up, figure out who’s a candidate for possible layoffs — and, of course, complicate Alex’s life even further.
Speaking of complications, have we mentioned Alex’s aged dance mentor Hannah (Madeleine Doherty)? Or Gloria’s boyfriend Jimmy (David R. Gordon), who wants to be a comedian just as badly (literally and figuratively) as Gloria wants to be Madonna? Or Harry’s sleazy rival C.C. (Christian Whelan), whose new strip club is providing plenty of unwelcome competition?
That’s a lot of plot to slog through, and way too many characters to care about. Yet “Flashdance” gives them plenty of time — and musical numbers. More than they deserve, but the musical’s book (by original screenwriter Tom Hedley and Robert Cary) and augmented score (with serviceable, if hardly memorable, new songs by Robbie Roth and Cary) forces us to mark time with them anyway.
Just cut to the dancing, folks. That’s what we’re there to see — and on that score, “Flashdance” doesn’t disappoint.
Tony-winning director-turned-choreographer Sergio Trujillo (whose credits include “Memphis” and “Jersey Boys”) keeps everybody on the move, all the time, whether it’s break-dancers busting out or perpetually pirouetting ballerinas floating across the stage.
Freed from the burden of having to push the plot forward, Moore and Ewing prove scene-stealing delights with signature numbers from the 1983 original, from “I Love Rock ’n’ Roll” to “Manhunt” to “Maniac.”
And as that “Maniac” out on the floor, Mueller proves a dancing dynamo throughout (no dance double needed here), whether she’s rocking out on the street or club stage. And before the dancing starts, she delivers the show’s big pop numbers (boasting such on-the-nose titles as “Hang On” and “Let Go”) with undeniable heart.
You may not always feel the passion, but this “Flashdance: The Musical” still makes it happen. And for that, we can all feel … grateful.
Contact reporter Carol Cling at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0272.