'Flashdance' at Proctors: A role grows, as does an actor


SCHENECTADY, N.Y. -- "Flashdance -- the Musical" is the latest in a series of films converted to stage musicals. But in a reverse of the trajectory of the usual touring-show offerings the show is headed for Broadway, not spinning off from it.

Decades ago, it was standard practice for shows headed to New York to warm up in several out-of-town runs -- to iron out script and song choices in front of live audiences before taking the plunge on the Great White Way.

However, "Flashdance," which opens at Proctors on Tuesday, has been more than 15 months on the road in an extended out-of-town tryout. Its arrival on Broadway, originally targeted for last fall, has been postponed indefinitely.

"The producers seem happy for now to tour with this show," says David R. Gordon, who originated the role of Jimmy in the national-tour version of "Flashdance."

"We’ve had three different complete rewrites," says Gordon, who joined "Flashdance" at its outset in Pittsburgh. "We’ve added songs, taken out songs, changed endings of songs, rewritten whole scenes. It definitely adds a lot of strain to touring."

And as a result, the production visiting the Capital Region has changed many of its original cast. Currently it stars Sydney Morton in the role of Alex Owens, a steel-town welder by day and self-taught dancer who dreams of the big time -- as the lyric goes, a maniac! Maniac! "It’s an easy story," says Gordon. "If someone has a dream, you go for it."

It may seem odd that there have been so many rewrites to what is a bit of a known quantity, based as it is on a wildly-successful quasi-musical film from the 1980s. Adrian Lyne’s 1983 screen opus made a star of Jennifer Beals and had a soundtrack that racked up a handful of pop hits -- including the aforementioned "Maniac," "Gloria," "I Love Rock ‘n Roll" and the title song, which won an Oscar.

All of which appear in the stage musical, along with a score that includes a slew of new material in the ‘80s-pop style by Robbie Roth, set to a book by Tom Hadley and Robert Cary; Cary also collaborated with Roth on the new lyrics.

"Tom, who wrote the movie and also helped write the musical, sat us down and told us it was originally supposed to be a stage musical," says Gordon. "A lot of the original iconic scenes from the movie and a lot of the original iconic songs are here. But Robert Roth and Rob Cary made an incredible score that matches the feel of the original."

There have been some plot changes as well. One of them involves Gordon’s role. "Jimmy is a relentless comedian. He thinks he’s a lot funnier than he is. It’s a fun role," he says. "I got to originate the role, and there were initially a lot of jokes that were cut, which was disappointing at first. But then I found out, the writers were actually rewriting around me. And that’s an actor’s dream."

Jimmy and his girlfriend, Gloria ("Gloria!"), are now the focus of a principal secondary plot that parallels the main romantic line involving Alex and Nick (Corey Mach).

The version audiences will see in Schenectady has been, as they say, "locked" for quite some time. "It hasn’t really changed since last July or August," says Gordon. "It’s a very high energy show, it’s non-stop. It’s definitely the hardest working ensemble on a Broadway show."

Gordon, a Southern California native, got into musical theater "kind of late in the game. I was 16, which is kind of late compared to all the kids who start dance classes at two or three." A seasoned touring veteran after a run in "Grease" that played Europe, "I was really excited to do a stateside tour. It’s fun to see how it’s received by audiences in each city. We work hard on making this a show for the whole family. And there are a lot of guys who think, ‘I don’t want to go to a musical.’ But if there’s a show to take your girlfriend to, this is it."


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