Reviewed by Katy Hart
‘What a feeling, Bein’s Believin’, I can have it all now I’m dancing for my life’ were the lyrics to the hit song from the 1983 box office success ‘Flashdance’ and last evening they were echoing around the New Theatre in Oxford. What an exciting and immensely energising musical featuring the talented and beautiful Joanne Clifton as Alex Owens.
Alex is a young apprentice at a steel works in Pittsburgh with aspirations to be a dancer. She spends her evenings working in Harry’s bar as a nightclub dancer but she longs for a better life, one where she can fulfil her passion of dance. Alongside her at Harry’s bar is her best friend Gloria (Hollie-Ann Lowe) and her comedian boyfriend Jimmy (Colin Kiyani). Gloria is the one who despite Alex’s reservations, encourages Alex to apply to the prestigious Shipley Dance Academy so she can pursue her dreams.
As the storyline and plot unfold we not only follow Alex’s desire to join the dance academy, but she also has an admirer, a young handsome Nick Hurley (Ben Adams) who just happens to be a family member of the boss. He is brought into the family’s steel business to make cuts and lay off staff. Gloria becomes involved in a rival seedy nightclub working in a lap-dancing bar and is drawn into a world of sex and drugs, and her boyfriend, Jimmy, leaves to travel to New York to make his name and fortune. These different strands all add to an action-packed storyline that keeps everyone anticipating what will happen next.
The musical features the hit song and dance classics that we all remember from the 1980’s film (Manic, Manhunt, Feeling and I Love Rock & Roll), the neon clothing, the leg warmers, the high energy dancing – it had it all and did not disappoint. The end of the evening saw the whole of the audience on their feet, dancing, singing and clapping to a medley of the hits.
Joanne Clifton certainly wowed the audience with her amazing vocal talent – who knew that she could sing? We’ve seen her lift the glitter ball in Strictly Come Dancing, so we knew that she was the most incredible dancer, but in the words of someone last evening at the performance – she is a triple threat. She can dance, act and sing. The duet ‘Here and Now’ with Ben Adams was just wonderful.
Whilst I could mention so many of the cast as there was some real talent there, I feel that special credit should be given to Gloria and Jimmy who gave the most incredible vocal performances last evening, and who both had fantastic stage presence.
The set was quite minimal, however it was cleverly used and moved around the performers. One moment you are in a steel works, the next inside a dance academy watching a ballet class. The scenes flowed seamlessly into each other and there were none of the long blackouts waiting for the set and props to be positioned. The iconic water scene even featured in the performance – full credit goes to the technical stage team.
The live band were incredible, and I was kept wondering right up to the end of the performance as to where they were. At times during the first half the music did overpower the vocals, and there were a few sound issues with some of the microphones not quite picking up however these really were minor and did not detract from the performance.
The ensemble dancers feature so prominently throughout the production and they do not disappoint. The energy that they bring to their performance is amazing, and the choreography by Matt Cole is just so electrifying. I’m sure many of us wanted to don our legwarmers and join on in.
New Theatre, Oxford is such a welcoming theatre and it is always a pleasure to visit, last evening most definitely lived up to all expectations and more. If you’re looking for a fun, entertaining and uplifting evening, then go along and watch ‘Flashdance’, you won’t be disappointed.
Tickets cost from £20.40 to £55.90 (plus £4 transaction fee).
Flashdance – The Musical is at the New Theatre in Oxford from 18-23 September 2017, for more information or to book tickets visit www.atgtickets.com/oxford or call the box office on 0844 871 3020.
New Theatre Oxford, George Street, Oxford, OX1 2AG | 0844 871 3020