A brilliant new strategic initiative was recently devised in Whingers Towers to deal with the post-Christmas theatrical lull: a period of “mopping up” the about-to-close shows that we have somehow missed.
But when we got down to it we just couldn’t really be bothered with Birdsong and despite constant entreaties from various quarters we continue to give Onassis a berth wider than any on the tycoon’s yacht.
Which really just left Flashdance The Musical.
It didn’t seem like such a stupid idea. Phil had been disappointed by the lack of slosh during the panto season and his wet dream was for some literal mopping up after the iconic water-dumping scene.
Andrew – being the less hoydenish half of the team – was seduced by the idea of live-on-stage spot-welding which ignited another “slow glowing dream” in Phil’s mind: that Andrew would sport a floral crimplene pantsuit and that an on-stage spark might become an off-stage one and with the Whingers sitting in the front row (day seats) well, you can imagine the rest… Phil Certainly did.
Anyway, it was all a bit half-baked in the planning. It turned out that the lead lady welder Victoria Hamilton-Barritt (“a shining new star”, Michael Coveney) was on holiday this week which seems a bit odd really as the show closes anyway on 15th January. But presumably it was in her contract and at least it was advertised and she wasn’t “indisposed” with a Hot-Flushdance. Sadly this meant there was no call for someone to insert the spanking brand new, recently developed Whingers’ Rectal Thermometer™.
So we saw someone else. We couldn’t tell you who it was as the souvenir brochures were £6 and there was no bog-standard programme.
In case, like us, you haven’t seen the film, Alex is a lady welder who works at Hurley Steel (insert your own Shane Warne gag here) in Pittsburgh. But by night Alex is also a surprisingly tacky and exhibitionist dancer who yearns to win a place at a prestigious dance school despite the enormous chip she has on her shoulder about being working class.
A young woman working as a welder may have seemed radical in 1983 when the film came out but here it seems no less likely than the rest of the enterprise: chorus boys and blue collar roles aren’t natural bed-fellows and even with a surfeit of street-wise body popping courtesy of Arlene Philips it really didn’t seem very convincing.
The script has aspirations towards making the characters wise-cracking but is frustrated in this regard by possessing the lamest jokes ever to grace a West End stage. The pace of things is hampered by what one imagines are the words “[pause for laughter]” dotted throughout the script. Sadly for the cast none was forthcoming.
And it was all very untidy – strands of sub-plots were left lying about (what fate did the murdering cousin meet?), minor, pointless characters were introduced (the mincing CeCe who apparently doesn’t exist in the film said nothing and did nothing except mince) and songs are shoehorned in on the flimsiest of pretext – sometimes with bewildering results. Of course, the moment it was announced that someone had a cousin called Gloria we knew we were in for the song “Gloria” at some point. Gloria got seduced to go and work at a club even seedier than Alex’s with promises of being in an MTV video. She started drinking and taking drugs and the girls had to go and rescue her, all of which is reflected with dramatic precision in the lyrics:
Gloria, you’re always on the run now
Running after somebody, you gotta get him somehow
I think you’ve got to slow down before you start to blow it
I think you’re headed for a breakdown, so be careful not to show it
You really don’t remember, was it something that he said?
Are the voices in your head calling, Gloria?
Gloria, don’t you think you’re fallin’?
If everybody wants you, why isn’t anybody callin’?
You don’t have to answer
Leave them hangin’ on the line, oh-oh-oh, calling Gloria
Gloria (Gloria), I think they got your number (Gloria)
I think they got the alias (Gloria) that you’ve been living under (Gloria)
But you really don’t remember, was it something that they said?
Are the voices in your head calling, Gloria?
A-ha-ha, a-ha-ha, Gloria, how’s it gonna go down?
Will you meet him on the main line, or will you catch him on the rebound?
Will you marry for the money, take a lover in the afternoon?
Feel your innocence slipping away, don’t believe it’s comin’ back soon
Anyway, after Alex’s mother got shot in the face in the dry cleaners (oh, please, it closes in 10 days) there was a dream sequence in which Alex expressed her grief through the medium of dance. Agnes De Mille has a lot to answer for. On and on it trundled, culminating in a lame routine in which Alex dances her audition piece at the show’s finale. This becomes a huge dance number and the chorus join her body-popping, flipping and generally throwing themselves around all over the place. Why? Was she applying for Britain’s Got Talent as one of Diversity?
It wasn’t all in vain. Phil was completely satisfied by the slosh moment which closes Act 1. This was much more than the expected trickle: there was plenty of water as Alex finished her dance routine, pulled the chain and flushed herself. No wonder the next production due to come into the Shaftesbury Theatre, Rebecca, has had to look for a new home due to an underground stream preventing excavations to accommodate the show’s sets. Blame Flushdance.
Andrew was less satisfied. The on-stage spot welding turned out to be nothing more than some minor angle-grinding which might make for pretty sparks but isn’t in the same league.
The best bit was when it was revealed that Alex actually wears two bras: she took her bra off from under her sweatshirt, hung it on the bed-post, went to bed and got up the next morning in another bra which she presumably had been wearing under the first one. Or perhaps all ladies wear two bras. What do we know?
Anyway, if you’re looking for Flashdance entertainment, Robert Webb did it on his own so much more endearingly.