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Flashdance groove!

Joanne Clifton has swapped Strictly sequins for 1980s legwarmers. Check out what Muddy Bucks/Oxon ed Hero thought.

All photos: Brian Hartley

Any Eighties soundtrack has immediate emotional resonance with me, mainly because it reminds me of my soaring teenage hormones. But the iconic Flashdance soundtrack What A Feeling also has some uncomfortable memories – namely my mother catching me in full leg-warmer and high kick action as I pretended to be Jennifer Beal (*cringe*).

I dealt with those demons last night by taking Muddy senior to watch the first night of this national touring show of Flashdance at Aylesbury Waterside Theatre. Apart from a slight smirk when the track came on, she was immersed in this super-energetic production starring Strictly’s Joanne Clifton as Alex, superwelder by day, frustrated dancer by night, and Ben Adams from A1, as her boss and love interest.

First off, you’ll want to know if Joanne Clifton is a cynical casting on the back of her Strictlyfame. No as it happens. She has a really strong voice with a bit of husk that stops it from sounding like so many squeaky musical stars, plus she nails an American accent perfectly. The dancing is clearly not going to be a problem for her – her energy and ‘delivery’ are things of wonderment and her acting, though occasionally veering towards the hammy (probably much harder to nail an intense, serious character than the joyous Thoroughly Modern Millie that she last starred in), stayed believable.

As you’d expect, the dancing was the real star in this show and the supporting cast were really exceptional, especially Simeon Beckett, Rhodri Watkins and Demmileigh Foster. Ben Adams no doubt can bust some moves like any self-respecting former boy-bander but he was consigned to singing and acting duties and, blow me down, he was good too – the guy really can sing and act and his voice fitted with Joanne Clifton’s well.

Sets were all about industrial graffiti, neon lights and metal staircases, simple but effective, and the whole thing zipped along with huge energy.

If I was to criticise anything it’s a general criticism of modern musicals, which is that I wish there were 6 less songs in each production I see and that the acting could move the story along with the music as the accent at moments of real emotion.

But there, that’s just me. What I should point out is that by the time the encore came, it came with the whole audience on its feet, Joanne Clifton was like a woman possessed in her teeny tiny outfit, gyrating on the floor, bending in ways that would have a chiropractor wincing, shaking her Jon Bon Jovi hair with  abandon, with the rest of the cast behind her clearly in raptures at the reception.

A job well done.

THE MUDDY VERDICT

Good for: Dance fans, Eighties aficionados, groups of girlfriends wanting a night out, anyone who wants some high-waist-trouser escapism (seriously, the outfits are hilariously en pointe).

Not for: The themes of erotic dancing, exploitation and drugs won’t suit small kids. There are a lot of bums out in skimpy outfits (Mr Muddy, take your finger off Everyman Theatre speed dial).

£: from £15

Flashdance is at Everyman Theatre, Cheltenham, Mon 29 Jan to Sat 3 Feb. Buy tickets 

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