I was only alive for the last few years of the eighties but, after watching Flashdance’s fabulous neon clad dancers at Everyman Theatre, Cheltenham last night, I left with a nostalgic longing for lurid legwarmers.

Flashdance tells the story of Alex Owens, welding apprentice by day and club dancer by night. Her dreams of becoming a professional dancer are within reach; if she can pass an audition into the prestigious Shipley Dance Academy. Supported by new boyfriend, and boss’s son, Nick Hurley, the musical follows the rise and fall of her journey through love, friendship and self-discovery.

The cast

Joanne Clifton is outstanding in the role of Alex. I expected her to dance like she’s never danced before following her highly successful tenure on Strictly Come Dancing, but boy can she sing too! Her vocals carried a pretty flawless American twang throughout and her powerful voice easily filled the theatre and beyond. Completing the triple threat, it turns out Joanne is also a skilled actress, with spot on comic timing. Along with the rest of the audience, I found myself really rooting for Alex to get her big break.

Musical, Theatre, Flashdance, Oxford, Joanne Clifton
Credit: Brian Hartley

Whilst Joanne is undoubtedly the star of the show, the rest of the cast are equally superb; performing exhaustion inducing, powerful dance routines whilst barely breaking a sweat. Demmileigh Foster’s sharp moves during a confident solo rendition of “I love Rock ‘n’ Roll” set her out as one to watch; she is a hugely talented performer.

Dancing for their lives across a stage made of steel, made of stone (alright I made that part up), the cast shine against a clever digital backdrop, with mobile set pieces that turn from a club to a factory in an instant and transport the audience straight back into the eighties.

We’ve previously seen Flashdance at New Theatre, Oxford with Ben Adams, heartthrob of nineties boyband A1, as Nick. Ben is having a week off for the Cheltenham shows but his understudy, Colin Kiyani, is an accomplished replacement; that is unless you once had a bedroom adorned with A1 posters in which case you might be left longing.

If you see the show elsewhere, Ben is certainly talented too, and similarly manages the rare feat of a near perfect American accent. His iconic boyband vocals are still strong and blend perfectly with Joanne’s to create several beautiful duets. His dancing is rather less polished than Colin’s (although he has mastered a beautiful forwards roll) but it doesn’t matter; the cast roll with it and raise a few laughs along the way.

Where can you see Flashdance?

What a feeling the audience were left with; everyone was on their feet singing and clapping during a standing ovation. It’s a fun, family friendly production that will make you come alive with a desire to break out in song and dance. Now where did I put those legwarmers again?

You can catch it at the Everyman Theatre, Cheltenham until Saturday 3rd February. It then heads off around the country until September, including the Bristol Hippodrome in June. Don’t miss it!

Flashdance, Joanne Clifton, New Theatre, Theatre, Musical, Oxford
Credit: Brian Hartley

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