The Energy of the 80’s


Why is it that we cannot let our hopes and dreams take flight? Why do we sometimes lack the courage to leap into the unknown, and go for that big, shiny trophy?

These are just some of the questions that I think should be asked when taking a philosophical viewpoint on Flashdance: The Musical. Of course, philosophy is certainly not required for something as fun and energetic as Touring Theatre Associates’ production of Flashdance. To give a quick plot synopsis, young Alex Owens (played by Julia Macchio) is a steel mill worker by day, bar dancer by night in 1980’s Pittsburgh. Her true dreams, however, lie in getting into Shipley Academy, an elite academy that accepts only the most perfect dancers. She falls in love with her boss at the mill, Nick Hurley (played by Ryan Neal Green), and tries to keep the bar from falling victim to a popular rival bar. At the story’s conclusion, Alex performs a unique dance routine to Irene Cara’s What A Feeling for the judges at Shipley, and is accepted in.

The relatable, down-to-earth storyline is accompanied by energetic song-and-dance numbers that truly tend to channel the 80’s vibe into them. In every number, the cast shows off their unbelievable dance skills, incredibly powerful voices, and their ability to use both skills simultaneously. One interesting detail that I managed to catch is that the women were singing slightly louder than the men – this may very well be just a matter of voice power, but it may be symbolic of the fact that we are in an era where women are often discriminated against or treated like items, and the daily struggle they make in their lives trying to let themselves be heard alongside the men. Dynamic lighting effects by Joey Burbach also proved to be captivating, as they provided an excellent sense of location in a performance that only needed to use one or two background props throughout the show.

One of the points I think this performance touches on is the previously mentioned fact that women are often treated as items – men sometimes feel as if a woman is their legal property, and that they are free to treat them as they feel. This becomes evident at the bar belonging to C.C. (played by Derrian Tolden), known as the Chameleon Bar. After Alex’s best friend Gloria (played by Hannah K. MacDonald) leaves their original bar to work at Chameleon, she is given drugs by the villainous C.C. in order to “improve her performance”. Gloria is rescued by Alex, and the bar is eventually shut down due to obvious legal reasons. C.C. feels as if he owns his dancers, and can drug them as much as it takes to get them to comply with his requests. However, the dancers seek to challenge this perception of women, and break free from C.C.’s spell after Chameleon closes.

The final key point that I felt was touched upon is one that is best described by a quote pulled from Ratatouille (2007):

“Not everyone can become a great artist, but a great artist can come from anywhere.”

Likewise, not everyone can get accepted into Shipley Academy, but Shipley’s next student can come from anywhere – even if she works part-time at a steel mill and part-time at a bar. One can never tell where the next big thing will come from, so who knows? Maybe it’s you. The performance seems to try to encourage the audience to spread their wings, and go for the gold. We need to break out of our shell of fear, fear of failing, fear of disappointment, fear of rejection. Only when we realize our potential will we truly be able to soar.

Touring Theatre Associates’ performance of Flashdance was truly food for thought, and I would love to see them back at the Zeiterion Theater again, and discover what other subtle secrets this energetic 80’s enigma holds.

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