The Garden Theater, Winter Garden FL
Book by Tom Hedley and Robert Carey
Music by Robbie Roth
Lyrics by Robert Carry and Robbie Roth
Directed and Choreographed by Jani Walsh – Weber
Starring Paxton Brock and Clay Cartland
Alex (Brock) holds two jobs: She’s a steel worker during the day, and dances at night in a bar with a stripper pole and cash flow problem. But Alex discovers a dream; she now aspires to dance classical ballet and study at Mrs. Wild’s Shipley Academy. It’s very exclusive and used to be run by Alex’s terminally ill friend Hanna (Marylin McGuiness). When the new young and single Steel Works boss Nick Hurley (Cartland) arrives he swears there won’t be any layoffs, but he ditches half the staff by intermission. Alex is unimpressed by him until their ninth date; this is one where she wears nothing but his used shirts, and they begin selecting china patterns. Then Alex applies to the Shipley Academy ballet school audition, and Nick helpfully makes a large yet secret donation to the school. She finds out and is insulted, but not to the point she doesn’t go to the audition. There she arrives late and flubs audition doing her stripper dance version of the big scene from “The Charlie Brown Christmas Special.” But she’s accepted anyway. It looks like Nick might not save the steel works, but he carries weight in the elevated world of classical dance. Even by musical theater standards, this plot is a real stretch.
While the plot is a mess, the dancing and music comes across strongly. The hits all work; “Mania” feels way too short, but “Flash Dance” and “Gloria” bring wild applause. The best supporting cast members were the club owners Harry (Thomas Muniz) and the evil competition C.C. (Brian Zealand). Harry is fun and frumpy, C.C. violent and brutal, and between them you get a feel for the crappy job erotic dancing can be. Alex’s best friend Gloria (Elisabeth Christie) give good advice to Alex even as she ends up a sex slave in C.C.’s sleazy operation. That leaves good old Nick as the nice guy in a bad space. Sure, he fires all Alex’s co-workers, but geopolitics overwhelmed him as the Pittsburgh’s steel industry sailed majestically east to China. Good acting, solid music, and a script that stretches our musical theater tolerance for unlikely plots makes this a good summer entertainment. I had a full house of people that agreed on the day I saw Flashdance; but where were you?