WHAT A FEELING: ‘Flashdance the Musical’ brings catchy, showy tunes to the stage

‘Flashdance the Musical’ brings catchy tunes to the stage

Photo provided by Broadway in New Orleans -- Matthew Hydzik as Nick and the cast of the national tour of Flashdance.
Photo provided by Broadway in New Orleans -- Matthew Hydzik as Nick and the cast of the national tour of Flashdance.

It’s time to find some leg warmers, cut up a sweatshirt and dump a bucket of water on yourself because “Flashdance the Musical” is playing at the Mahalia Jackson Theater in New Orleans.

This show has all the sexy moves and catchy tunes that helped the 1983 film dance its way into pop culture history.

Matthew Hydzik, who plays the main character Alex’s love interest, Nick, admitted that the show’s cast members are especially vulnerable to the show’s catchy songs.

“After you’ve been rehearsing for a while, you wake up singing it. You don’t even know you’re doing it,” Hydzik said. “You just start singing the songs while you’re in the shower and getting dressed. Sometimes my wife says, ‘You know you’ve been singing ‘Maniac’ for the last half hour, right?’ ”

In addition to chart-topping hits like “What a Feeling,” the show features 15 original songs that toe the line between show tunes and ’80s pop music.

Hydzik had previously starred in Broadway revivals of “West Side Story” and “Grease,” as well as national tours of “Rent” and “Fame,” but nothing could have prepared him for the feeling of returning to his hometown of Pittsburgh, Pa., for the debut of the musical.

“It was storybook. It was great. The story’s set there, so we opened in Pittsburgh. The mayor declared it Flashdance Day. We got a proclamation and everything. It was awesome,” Hydzik said.

Hydzik never worried about audiences comparing the musical to the original film, since the story fits a stage format so well.

“ ‘Flashdance’ was originally intended to be a stage musical in New York. Upon getting picked up by producers, Paramount showed interest, and they said, ‘Write a screenplay, and let’s do this.’ They made this little film, and it just exploded,” Hydzik said.

Still, he thinks the stage musical is better.

“There’s no faking live theater. I mean, the movie itself — it is what it is. It’s an awesome little snapshot of the ’80s,” he said. “Having said that, the lead actress had six dancing body doubles, and in our show, Emily does all the work herself.”

Emily Padgett stars as Alex, a steel worker by day and a burlesque dancer by night.

Hydzik was proud to see her succeed at such a challenging role.

“I’ve known Em for a while. We did our first Broadway show together a couple years ago, and I’m so proud of her I get choked up all the time just watching her. But she does eight shows a week. Eight back-breaking shows while singing her face off. And the dancers, too. It’s an amazing thing to watch these extremely talented people work at such a high level,” Hydzik said.

While Hydzik doesn’t get to do much dancing as Nick, his character is more developed than in the movie, coming from an opposite background from the working-class Alex.

“He can have anything, can have anyone,” Hydzik said. “He’s basically like a Rockefeller or a Carnegie. He inherited this giant throne, this steel empire, it’s all resting on his shoulders. His journey is to do good with that and to be inspired by Alex to do good.”

Hydzik said that the story of Alex’s triumph against all odds reminded him of his own journey toward a career on Broadway.

“I come from a blue-collar, working-class family. Son of a steel worker, grandpa was a steel worker, mom was a teacher,” he said. “However, I had a family that believed in me, and they pushed me. A lot of people don’t have that. This character, Alex, she doesn’t have that. What I love about this story and what I love about Alex is that she breaks these molds and she crashes through that glass ceiling.”

Hydzik is sure that audiences will get just as swept away as he does in Alex’s fight to make her dreams a reality.

“The level of talent is mind-blowing, and I’m so proud of my cast. The music is fantastic. The script explores deeper into the characters than the film,” Hydzik said. “I guarantee you’ll be cheering for her even before she starts her final dance. I do.”

“Flashdance the Musical” runs till March 3. More information about the show is available at http://www.flashdancethemusical.com