Review: Flashdance the musical

Shaftesbury Theatre 3 out of 5 stars

INEVITABLY there’s one thing about the latest film-turned-jukebox musical Flashdance that makes it stand apart from its peers – the dancing.

In a musical that tells the well-worn story of how the magic of dance can transform and revive, it’s no surprise the best thing about the newest show to hit the West End is Arlene Phillips’ choreography, which manages to combine the familiar 80s-style moves with the current day street dance phenomena to create a fantastic spectacle.

The writers of the show have done their best to stretch out the story of “wrong-side-of-the-tracks” steel worker Alex, who finds redemption in dance and her romance with the mill owner’s nephew, and have padded out the famous scenes – that water dance, that bra removal and that infamous audition scene – with a few other side stories, some of which are more successful than others. Same goes with the songs – favourites such as Maniac and What A Feeling are joined by new songs, some of which soar, others of which fall a little flat. The second half is far more fast-paced and enjoyable than the first.

The performances, though, are strong across the board. Star of the show, of course, is Victoria Hamilton-Barritt as Alex – confident yet likeable and as strong a dancer as she is a singer. The film’s infamous final dance scene was actually performed by seven dancers – but Hamilton-Barritt hits every move on her own, with an added breakdown set in the middle of the song just for fun. Former Busted member Matt Willis is a surprise package as love interest Nick, who belts out the songs like a pro, keeps up a good American accent and is convincing in his acting. He performs better than most famous faces who transfer over to the West End stage. The supporting cast and ensemble dancers are also strong.

Fans of Arlene Phillips and all things dance will love the show, while others will find it decent enough for an uplifting Saturday night 80s reminiscence.

Booking until February 26 2011.

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Rhiannon Evans