'Flashdance' Tour Underwhelming

The Hartford Courant

The show: The tour of "Flashdance" at the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts in Hartford.

First impressions: In terms of the movie musicals of the '70s and '80s, "Flashdance" may be the most incredulous. Adrian Lyne's visually arresting (in an MTV way) film tells a story of a young woman who works in the steel factory as a welder by day and dances in a second-rate nightclub in Pittsburgh by night, and dreams of joining a prestigious ballet academy.

This underwhelming stage version takes the film's decent five songs ("Maniac," "Manhunt," "Gloria," "I Love Rock 'n' Roll" and "What a Feeling"), then adds 16 generic and over-amped tunes to stretch the show to two-and-a-half interminable hours. The book does little in making sense out of any of the narrative, or in brightening the cliche-filled dialogue or in filling in any of the sketchy-at-best relationships. This tour has a reasonably talented cast but they're wasted in this mindless throwback to '80s power pop kitch.

Does the water come down on her in her big number?: Yes, that iconic and moist moment is replicated down to the backlighting. But it has little emotional connection to anything in particular.

Which is the problem with this by-the-numbers adaptation in which things happen for no good reason to people you don't particularly care about. The leading man Nick (Corey Mach) falls for the pretty welder because — well, just because. (The only sparks that fly are from the welder's torch in the show's opening minutes, only to be snuffed for the rest of the show/)

An aging dance mentor (Jo Ann Cunningham) encourages Alex to follow her dream — but good lord, why? Has this demanding diva seen the girl's dance form — or her hair? The factory boss takes a supposedly courageous stand but at the end we don't know exactly what that stand is. (And nothing says 11 o'clock number than when a factory boss sings to portraits of his moneyed predecessors. Ah, the angst of the 1 percent.)

Most unsettling is the question of whether the heroine Alex (Jillian Mueller) is as delusional as her misguided and not-so-interesting friends. Any sane person would think so after seeing her audition for the academy when she gyrates like a stripper who once saw a Cirque du Soleil show.

Are we meant to cheer the dreams of her friends Gloria (Ginna Claire Mason), Jimmy (David R. Gordon) and Harry (Matthew Henderson)? Or applaud when they come to terms with their mediocrity. Not exactly the stuff of uplift.

What does the title of the show refer to? You got me. Perhaps energy without meaning, which is as good a description as any of the show, choreographed with aerobic zip by Sergio Trujillo, who also directed without a clue.

Who will like it?: Welders, pole dancers, MTV veejays.

Who won't?: Those insisting on caring about the characters they see on stage.

For the kids?: Only if you feel comfortable taking them to them about pole dancing.

Twitter review in 140 characters or less: "Billy Elliot" for Hooters waitresses.

Thoughts on leaving the parking: Good thing the Bushnell has "War Horse" and "The Book of Mormon" in its season line-up.

The basics: The show will continue at The Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts, 166 Capitol Ave., Hartford through Oct. 20. Running time is 2 hours and 30 minutes, including one intermission. Performances are Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30 p.m.; Friday at 8 p.m.; Saturday at 2 and 8 p.m.; and Sunday at 1 and 6 p.m. Tickets are $22 to $85, not including fees. Information at 860-987-5900 and www.bushnell.org.

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