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On Theater: What a feeling (of deja vu)

MusicDanceSergio Trujillo

Oh, what a coincidence! The Segerstrom Center for the Arts is mounting the stage musical version of a movie focusing on a young hoofer from the working class striving to become a classical dancer, whose future hinges on one crucial audition.

No, not "Billy Elliot." That was last month. This time around the spotlight is on "Flashdance," and the central character not only is dynamically impressive in the dance numbers, but superior both in the singing and acting categories. And, oh yes, this time it's a female in the starring role.

That central role, whose degree of difficulty is off the charts, is rendered superbly by Jillian Mueller, a young lady about whom you're certainly destined to hear more. She takes the role of Pittsburgh welder and dance club entertainer Alex Owens by the horns in one of the Center's most memorable performances.

Mueller kicks and spins her way through one of the most challenging star turns in the theater as the street-tough dancer whose spine is as strong as the steel she helps produce. Her character melts for her young employer, but she steadfastly refuses his help in her ascension up the showbiz ladder.

That fellow, blessed with inner tensile strength in his own right, is strongly portrayed by Matthew Hydzik, whose sterling rendition of the solo "Enough" earns sustained applause. His chemistry with Mueller is infectious, even during their obligatory parting sequence.

The show's dynamism isn't limited to the two leads. Kelly Felthous summons her inner Kristin Chenoweth in a heart-rending performance as Alex's best buddy Gloria, a dancer lured to a seedier establishment by an unprincipled entrepreneur — a stark and powerful villainous turn by Christian Whelan.

Mueller's other two pals — Dequina Moore and Katie Webber — share plenty of spotlight as Moore heats up the stage in her "Manhunt" solo and Webber takes it to the max in her supercharged rendition of "I Love Rock and Roll." Both are exemplary performers.

Matthew Henerson is gruff but likable as the girls' club boss, constantly pressured by his limited-talent comic nephew (David R. Gordon) for more stage time. Jo Ann Cunningham excels as the aging dance mistress who spurs Mueller's career hopes.

Both the razor-sharp direction and the outstanding choreography are the work of Sergio Trujillo, with music supervision and arrangement assistance from Jason Howland. The show itself is the combined product of Tom Hedley and Robert Cary (book), Robbie Roth (music) and Cary and Roth (lyrics).

"Flashdance" will set your toes tapping and your heart pounding as it recreates the 1980s music and dance scenes with electric alacrity. It's a superior production on all counts — headed by the sensational Jillian Mueller — at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts.

TOM TITUS reviews local theater for the Daily Pilot.

If You Go

What: "Flashdance"

Where: Segerstrom Center for the Arts, 600 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa

When: 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays, 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturdays, 1 and 6:30 p.m. Sundays through May 19

Cost: Starts at $20

Information: (714) 556-2787 or http://www.scfta.org

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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