Curiocity: Q&A With The Stars Of ‘Flashdance’

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Sara Boyd Sara Pelissero
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Get out your leg warmers and slouch your cut-off sweatshirt — “Flashdance, the Musical” is taking over Minneapolis.

The live show, which was originally intended for the stage but turned into a movie in 1983, is making its debut on Hennepin Avenue and across the nation on a U.S. tour — before its August 2013 Broadway debut.

The core of the story brings 80s fashion, a broad spectrum of dance and extremely memorable music together in a powerful way.

For the full scoop on this hit musical, we turned to the stars of the show — Kelly Felthous (who plays Gloria) and David R. Gordon (who plays Jimmy).

——-

So for those who aren’t familiar, give us a little synopsis of “Flashdance.”

Kelly: Flashdance is the story of Alex Owens, who works at a steel mill in Pittsburgh and her hopes and dreams of becoming a professional dancer and how she goes about doing that and her training, and eventually her audition. It’s about going after your dreams and the struggle. And dancing, and music and fashion.

And not only fashion, but fashion of the 80s, which is so much fun.

Kelly: Oh, so much fun! I feel like my costumes are the best in the show and I say the best because they’re the most 80s costumes. I get to wear a high-waisted jean skirt and bangles and a crucifix. I have the side headband with the big, poofy 80s ratted hair.

What were your first experiences with Flashdance?

David: First time I saw the movie, I was probably very young. All my sisters are older, I’m the baby of the family so I’m sure at one point I was dressed up like Alex Owens and told to dance, monkey, dance. But I remember seeing it when I was young and I remember seeing my sisters dancing around to it but then I didn’t see it again until after the initial auditions. I went back and watched it and I saw the guy who plays Jimmy and thought, ‘Oh, I could do that, I think I could do that.’

Kelly: I remember, my sisters are older, I’m the baby of the family, as well, and my sister is a dancer and she used it to get ideas for dancing. She’d choreograph her own dances and I wasn’t allowed to watch it, because I was too young at the time. But I remember sneaking out, with my VHS tape, sticking it in at like 1 a.m., waiting until everyone was asleep and watching the water scene over and over again. Her dancing and doing her lunges, I was obsessed with it. And my mom the next morning, I remember singing “Maniac” and she was like, ‘how’d you get that song stuck in your head?’ and I had to be like, ‘No idea, just came in my head, never watched the movie, no idea what you’re talking about.’ I loved it.

(credit: Kyle Froman)

(credit: Kyle Froman)

Obviously the music is a huge part of the show and almost what people think of first when they think of “Flashdance.”

Kelly: What’s exciting is we have all the songs you know and love from the movie — “Maniac,” “What A Feeling,” “Manhunt,” “I Love Rock’n Roll,” “Gloria,” all the songs you remember. But we also have a dozen new songs that were written for the musical but they’re in the style of the original songs. So you feel like you’re back in the 80s with all this new music, songs that could be hits today or in the 80s.

David: I remember in the rehearsal period, I was like ‘Is that song in the movie?’ and it wasn’t. And everyone was kind of like, ‘Is this a song from the movie or is this one actually an original piece?’

Kelly: We leave the show humming, I think even before the show, I’d leave humming not only my own songs but songs other people were singing in the rehearsal room. It’s so catchy and you can’t help but bop your head and tap your feet.

David: And you would think that after four months of doing this show, they’d get out of your head, but they don’t. They’re in there all the time. You wake up singing a new song every morning.

How has it been being on tour and traveling with the show?

Kelly: I love it. It’s been hard because obviously to keep up this amount of physicality in the show is hard enough but then you add getting off an airplane, going to a new theater, and all of a sudden you’re like, ‘I’ve got to kick my face and hit this high note in five minutes.’ We’re in Minnesota but before we were in like, Florida. So it’s like, ‘Ahh … how does your body adjust?’ So that part’s been hard but it’s been so fun to see the country and to share this musical that’s never been seen. It’s actually the original way the show was intended to be, before it was ever a movie. Tom Hedley, the writer, wanted it to be a musical.

David: But Hollywood snatched it.

Kelly: So it’s been exciting to be part of something new and get to show everyone.

David: And to create. No matter what, we created these roles. We originated these roles. So seeing how people are reacting, of course we’re following a script, but it’s fun to see what we do and how the audience reacts.

Kelly: And even to that extent, following a script, I mean, we’ve been very lucky that this is the out-of-town tryout for New York City essentially. They’re trying to do the show, you’re seeing it before New York gets to see it, before Broadway gets to see it. So we get to kind of create that even as we go. There’s times where it’ll be like, ‘this doesn’t work, can we fix this?’ And you still get that, which is so cool.

David: And beyond that, just touring the states and getting to catch up with friends and family all over the country — it’s great to taste different foods all over the country.

Kelly: And Mall of America! Woo! And I went to a Wild game.

David: And I get to go to a Twins game tomorrow.

(credit: Kyle Froman)

(credit: Kyle Froman)

And I hear, David, that you have family in the area?

David: I do. My mom is actually a Minnesota Parkette, she was a cheerleader for the Vikings when she was younger. And so, we have a lot of family here. So everyone keeps coming and supporting, which is awesome.

What’s it like for you to perform in front of your family?

David: It’s cool. It’s nerve-wracking sometimes. I think I’d rather perform in front of strangers sometimes, instead of your family who will tell you exactly what they think. At any time. But no, it’s fun, it’s great. They’re all very supportive.

There’s a lot of dancing in this show and as you mentioned, just the travel can be draining. How do you find the energy to perform at such a high level every night?

Kelly: So much dancing. I will say something that’s so exciting and I don’t think has ever been done before, in this capacity at least, we have so many different types of dancers in this show who specialize in their field. So we have prima ballerinas and men who can break dance and do hip-hop. But they’re not musical theater performers, they’re dancers. Dancers who have performed in Twyla Tharp’s company and who have danced, Bad Boys of Dance, all these dance companies. So their warm-up is so much different than what I’m used to as a musical theater performer. Like, you know, I’m in the gym and maybe I’ll do a little vocal warm-up and a lunge here and there. But the dancers come in and do like a full hour and a half ballet barre before every show. And they love it. And they all have to learn our skills. So the dancers all have to sing, the singers all have to dance, the ballerinas have to do hip-hop, the break dancers have to do ballet.

David: So we’re all very supportive of each other.

Kelly: Yeah, it’s exciting to see everyone in their element, just shining on stage, doing what they want to do but with the support of everyone else.

David: Also Sergio Trujillo, the director and choreographer, did a really great job of actually showing what everyone can do — you know, you push these people to the front for the hip-hop section and then for the ballet section. He did a really nice job of that.

Kelly: And it’s kind of a great little version of our show. Alex Owens learns her dance skills through street dancers, watching ballet and watching videos. And Vogue, she looks at fashion and does that. The show, I think, is all these things coming together and then at the end, she does this dance that I don’t know how she does it, that girl’s amazing — it’s like a 10-minute dance all by herself at the end of a two-hour show — it’s everything. Everything comes together for this one moment and I feel like that’s what this show is.

David: The writer, Tom Hedley, who also wrote the movie, explained to us what Flashdance is and it’s where music and dancing and fashion collide. But it’s true — it’s exactly what you see on stage.

Kelly: And a nice, little tidbit, Flashdance, I learned this from Tom Hedley, is kind of what made MTV famous. They both helped each other. Flashdance inspired the music video and the music video also made Flashdance more popular. So they both helped each other grow.

David: And they thanked him, personally, Tom Hedley for basically creating the music video.

That’s great. Any final pitches?

Kelly: Come see Flashdance! Bring the whole family, there’s something for everyone. Husbands, wives, kids, everyone will love it. It’ll be a good time. Stand up, sing along, clap, we love it. It should be a big concert, a big fun experience.

Flashdance: The Musical runs through April 7. For tickets or more information, click here.

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