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'Flashdance — The Musical' brings the '80s hit movie to the stage

| Saturday, Dec. 29, 2012, 8:04 p.m.
Victoria Hamilton-Barritt as Alex Owens & The Company of 'Flashdance -- The Musical' from the 2008 UK Tour. Catherine Ashmore
Scene from the 2008 UK tour of 'Flashdance The Musical' Catherine Ashmore
Victoria Hamilton-Barritt appeared as Alex Owens in 'Flashdance -- The Musical' during its 2008 UK Tour. Catherine Ashmore
The cast of the Pittsburgh premiere of 'Flashdance -- the Musical,' from left, Matthew Hydzik, Emily Padgett, director and choreographer Sergio Trujillo, and Rachelle Rak. Larry Rippel
Paul Tazewell
Stage set for 'Flashdance -- The Musical'
Stage set for 'Flashdance -- The Musical'

The new year begins with a new musical.

“Flashdance — The Musical,” will have its world premiere here Tuesday at Heinz Hall as a presentation of PNC Broadway Across America — Pittsburgh.

“Flashdance” is best known as the 1983 Pittsburgh-based movie about a young woman who works as a welder in a steel mill, but dreams of landing a spot in a classical dance academy.

“It was a movie that changed dance, music and music videos and put Pittsburgh on the map,” says Sergio Trujillo, the director and choreographer for the stage musical that plays through Sunday .

The movie became a pop-culture hit, grossing more than $160 million. Its score included a slew of Top 10 hits, including “Flashdance ... What a Feeling,” “Maniac,” “Gloria” and “I Love Rock 'n' Roll.”

What few know, Trujillo says, is that writer Tom Hedley originally intended the show to be performed as a Broadway musical. It was only after being unable to get any interest or backing for a live production that Hedley transformed it into a screenplay.

Tuesday, “Flashdance — The Musical” will again begin that journey toward a possible fall opening on Broadway with a new script and a score that combines 15 new songs written by Robbie Roth and Robert Carey with five well-loved songs from the movie.

All traces of a short-lived London stage production have been scrapped.

“They tried to make it darker,” Trujillo says. “Secondary story lines were twisted, convoluted. It didn't make sense.”

He describes the newly revised script as a rags-to-riches story of a blue-collar girl with a dream.

“It's now closer to the idea of what it was intended to be,” Trujillo says. “It specifically goes back to the original idea Tom Hedley talked about. ... That it was really about art. ... These (Flashdancers) who were so empowered because they drove men insane, and they knew what they wanted. This show will have that sense of empowerment.”

Heading the cast as the steelworker and aspiring dancer, Alex, is Emily Padgett, who has been working on “Flashdance — the Musical” since its first reading.

Padgett has several Broadway musicals on her resume.

But her part as Alex, is “absolutely my biggest role,” she says. Trujillo “got it in his head that I was this girl. It has been a long road of training ... but he has never given up on me,” Padgett says.

Playing opposite Padgett as Nick, the owner of the steel plant who falls for Alex, is Matthew Hydzik, a former Sewickley resident, who was last seen on stage here in 2006 when he played Rodger in the national tour of “Rent.”

Hydzik is upbeat about the show's shot at Broadway.

“I think (“Flashdance — The Musical ”) has legs to stand on, because it was originally meant to be a stage musical,” he says.

He thinks it will appeal to people who remember the movie — and those who have never seen it.

“People will come for the nostalgia and the fun, but the concept delves into serious issues everyone can relate to, (that) sometimes people give up a dream due to a glass ceiling created by themselves or others,” he says.

Also appearing in the show is former South Hills resident Rachelle Rak, who plays Tess — an older version of Alex — who tries to share her wisdom with the younger woman.

As Tess, Rak performs the song “I Love Rock 'n' Roll,” which Trujillo predicts will be a show-stopper

Trujillo knows there's a risk any time you alter a well-loved story that lingers in the memories of those who saw it in 1983 or have replayed it many times in the past 30 years.

He hedges on whether or where there will be a scene where young Alex is drenched with a climactic cascade of water by saying he wants to surprise the audience.

Then he adds: “We are sprinkling the show with all those treats. They will come at unexpected moments.”

Alice T. Carter is the theater critic for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-320-7808 or acarter@tribweb.com.

‘Flashdance' flashbacks

The 1980s was an era of big hair and even bigger shoulder pads and hit movies such as “Raiders of the Lost Ark” and “Ferris Bueller's Day Off.”

Inventors gave us Microsoft Windows and the CD- ROM. Restaurauteurs contributed franchise eareries that included Hooters and Olive Garden.

Here's some more notable icons of the decade, and more specifically, April 15, 1983, the day “Flashdance” was released:

Fashion: Leg warmers, artfully ripped acid-washed denim jeans, jellies (footwear), T-shirts with knotted hems, parachute pants, fingerless lace gloves, oversized sweaters that dropped off the shoulder

Top 10 TV shows: 1. “Dallas”; 2. “60 minutes”; 3. “Dynasty”; 4. “The A-Team”; 5. “Simon & Simon”; 6. “Magnum, P.I.”; 7. “Falcon Crest”; 8. “Kate & Allie”; 9. “Hotel”; 10. “Cagney & Lacey”

Toys and games: Atari Space Invaders, My Little Pony, Cabbage Patch Kids, Strawberry Shortcake dolls, Teddy Ruxpin

Foods: Pasta salad, mud pies and cakes, monkey bread, Cajun blackened fish, Jell-O Pudding Pops, Snapple, Tuna Helper Tetrazzini, Classic Coke, Bartles & Jaymes Wine Coolers, white wine in general and White Zinfandel in particular

Bilboard Top 5 songs: 1. “Billie Jean ” (Michael Jackson); 2. “Do You Really Want to Hurt Me?” (Culture Club); 3. “Hungry Like the Wolf” (Duran Duran); 4. “Come On Eileen” (Dexys Midnight Runners); 5. “Mr. Roboto” (Styx)

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