In the early 1980s a writer named Tom Hedley approached Bob Fosse with a script that he hoped the director and choreographer would be interested in developing. Fosse was intrigued, and told Hedley that what he'd written had the makings of a stage musical. Paramount had optioned the script and envisioned it as a movie, though.
Adrian Lyne went on to direct "Flashdance," which became one of the most popular films of the decade.
Thirty years later the Cinderella story of Alex, a young woman who works as a welder and dreams of a career as a dancer, is on the road to Broadway. This month, Flashdance — The Musical begins a national tour in Pittsburgh — the city in which the story is set — with plans for a New York opening in August. The production is directed and choreographed by Sergio Trujillo, and features a book by Hedley and Robert Cary, 16 new songs by Cary (lyrics) and Robbie Roth (music and lyrics), and such hits from the movie as "Flashdance… What a Feeling," "Maniac" and "Gloria."
A previous version of the show was seen in London in 2010, and although the writing team was the same, all the songs written by Roth and Cary for that production were scrapped. "When I spoke to the producers about doing this show, I told them that I wanted to start from scratch," says Trujillo, who was not involved in the London production. "I told them how I thought the show could work, and they were on board with my ideas. It was all about making sure that the story we were telling was specific and clear and had a hero that we'd be rooting for. I was going to dig into the story of this girl with a big dream, and go from there."
|photo by Kyle Froman|
The romance between Alex and her boss, Nick, remains central to the story, but other characters from the film did not make it to the stage. Alex's best friend — Jeanie, the would-be ice skater — is gone, replaced by Gloria, who has different aspirations than her predecessor. "When you adapt a movie for the stage, there's a tricky balance you have to find," says Trujillo. "If you depart so much from the original source material, you lose the audience. But you don't want to recreate the movie. There are iconic moments in the movie that I thought were important for the show, but they had to make dramaturgical sense. So I've tried to figure out a way to make those moments happen, but I never sacrificed any of our story to include them. The same is true for the songs from the movie. I've used them in a way that really serve our show, that help drive the story forward."
Trujillo credits Roth with figuring out how to meld the original songs and the familiar songs into a cohesive score. "When I listened to what he wrote for London, I knew he had the knack for being able to capture the '80s," says Trujillo. "He's really done that for this production, and he's made the existing songs work in a way that feels appropriate."
For Trujillo, Flashdance was an opportunity to let loose creatively, to work in a variety of dance styles: ballet, modern, jazz, break dancing, soft shoe.
"One of the reasons why I took on the show as a director and choreographer was because I felt that only a choreographer could tell the story," he says. "It's been a real treat for me to just let the show dance, and to let dance help tell the story."
( This feature appears in the January 2013 subscription issue of Playbill magazine. Want to subscribe?)