Flashdance reinvents itself for the stage

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Adam Rennie stars as Nick Hurley in Flashdance The Musical

There are a couple surprising parallels between Adam Rennie, who plays Nick Hurley in the current touring production of Flashdance The Musical, and the fictional Alex Owens who works against the odds to become a dancer.  And while Adam’s journey from Australia to his first big North American musical theatre tour has nothing to do with water being dumped on his head, it does include a lot of hard work and one big break.

Originally from Sydney, Australia, the 27-year old Rennie (center above in photo by Chad Bremerman) finds himself as the male lead in the musical stage adaptation of the 1980s film phenomenon, Flashdance.  After years of performing in musicals down under, Rennie moved to New York City a couple of years ago to pursue his career, with his persistence and talent finally paying off with this Northern Hemisphere debut.

“Mine was a dream audition,” says Rennie of his tryout for the show.  “I went in on Monday and sang for the casting directors who called me back the next day.  My entire audition was over in four days, a high intensity four days mind you, but I really felt when I walked out of the room that the role really suited me.”

But even before finding out he landed the coveted role opposite Karli Dinardo, who plays Alex in this touring production, Rennie already felt like he was a winner.

“We were auditioning for Sergio [Trujillo] who has won Tony Awards,” he enthused.  “It was such a huge deal to be in the room and I very much tried to make it an experience.  And when I did get the call, I nearly jumped through the roof.”

Following the same story as the iconic 1983 film starring Jennifer Beals, Flashdance The Musical follows the metamorphosis of Pittsburgh welder Alex Owens to that of ballet dancer.  But beyond the basic plot similarities, Rennie insists the stage version feels more like an extension of the film than an attempt at recreating it on stage.

“We’re not trying to compete with the film because it is such a different piece,” he says.  “The musical still has all the really great songs from the movie like “What a Feeling”, “Gloria”, and “Manhunt”, but there are also 16 new music theatre book songs that fit into the style.”

With writer Tom Hedley, responsible for both the film’s screenplay and the musical’s book, in the room during rehearsals, Rennie says that Hedley told the cast early on that he had originally envisaged Flashdance as a stage show.

“It makes sense as a musical,” says Rennie.  “It all feels like a cohesive world, and in the musical we get to explore the characters further than the film.”

Of course, it is all but impossible to ignore the film’s impact on pop culture, and while new audiences might be able to appreciate the musical for what it is now, Gen Xers will also get some of the iconic images that endure from the film, including Alex’s grey cut-off sweatshirt, final audition and, of course, her water dance.

And while Rennie would have been just four years old when the film burst onto screens, it is a phenomenon that he remembers, reaching well beyond North America to his home country.

“I watched it just before I auditioned,” he confesses.  “Some actors don’t like to watch things so they won’t be influenced, but for me the more ideas the better.”

That isn’t to say you can expect any impersonation of Michael Nouri from the film, despite a striking resemblance, at least in hairstyles.

“Everyone says that,” laughs Rennie at the comparison between his curly locks and those of Nouri.  “I have these big massive curls that just seem to fit the style.”

For Rennie though, the real strength of Flashdance The Musical comes from its combination of the old and the new, an idea that for a musical about dance makes perfect sense, and one that choreographer Sergio Trujillo has fully embraced.

“What is so great about this show is there are so many different types of dance that will appeal to so many,” says Rennie.  “There are these amazing 80s jazz combinations, but also hip-hop and classical ballet; it is a melting pot of dance styles that makes it really feel like a musical now.”

Flashdance The Musical plays Vancouver’s Queen Elizabeth Theatre November 11-19.  Visit http://vancouver.broadway.com for tickets and information.

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