When the Country Is Your Tryout Town: Flashdance Retools While It Circles Broadway

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13 Jan 2014

Current star Jillian Mueller
Current star Jillian Mueller
Photo by Jeremy Daniel

A year after launching a Broadway-aimed tour, Flashdance producer Marc Routh and director-choreographer Sergio Trujillo speak about the ongoing out-of-town tryout of the musical and its continued development.

The notion of the out-of-town tryout is as old as Broadway. It's the place where you first stage your new show and work out the kinks before you brave the cold critical winds of New York.

Historically, for most shows this amount to one city — be it Boston, New Haven, Chicago, Philadelphia, San Francisco or Seattle. For very careful producers with deep pockets, a production may make two or three stops before reaching Times Square. The Broadway-bound Aladdin, for instance, has had mountings in Seattle and Toronto.

For Flashdance, the musical version of the 1983 film about an aspiring young dancer, three shows is just a drop in the bucket. The show launched Jan. 1, 2013, at Pittsburgh's Heinz Hall. Since then it has been to St. Louis, Louisville, Atlanta, Baltimore, Nashville, Minneapolis, Houston, Dallas and a dozen other cities. And it's not even close to done. It's playing Washington, D.C., through Jan. 19, and will then go on to Las Vegas, Sacramento, Milwaukee, Boston, Cleveland and several other cities, including that punchline of touring destinations, Peoria, IL.

The plan is for Flashdance to eventually make it to Broadway. (The show was originally announced to open on New York in August 2013, but that arrangement was called off.) But, for now, the producers and director are in no hurry.

"In the normal situation for a show in development, all the creators pay a lot of attention to audience reaction," said producer Marc Routh. "Usually, we're limited to, at most, a month's previews. You fix it in time for the critics performances. We haven't been under that pressure. We really learn from a vast network of audience members."

"The show's been on the road the entire year," he added. "We have an unprecedented opportunity to watch the reactions of the audiences across America and make alterations."

"I don't know if an original show has ever done this," added Sergio Trujillo, the musical's director-choreographer. "It's a decision made by the producer. I knew it was an iconic movie and a darling of people in the 1980s. I thought, 'Why not bring it to the people and create a show that will cater to them?' They've been a barometer along the way."

Trujillo said theatregoers help him answer artistic questions like, "How much do you adapt from the movie?" and "How much do you take creative license?"

Both Trujillo and Routh have seen the production in multiple locations, and in each town, they gather ideas. Changes have been put into the show in Dallas, Hartford and Philadelphia. Twice last fall, the cast did read-throughs of revised scripts.

"The actors actually sang and read through a new version of the show and then performed an old version of the show" later that day, Routh marveled.

Every audience seems to teach the creators something about what the theatregoers want from a musical called Flashdance.


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