As I mentioned before, Flashdance the musical had its US premiere in my hometown of Pittsburgh, PA, so of course I went to see it. I didn’t get to see it on opening night which would have been pretty cool, but I did manage to get tickets to a Friday night performance of the nearly sold-out run.
When I posted about the premiere before I mentioned that I was concerned with how the steel mill workers would be portrayed in the musical. I was worried they may be tokenized or exaggerated to fit musical theatre tropes and that if that happened Pittsburgh audiences would be far from pleased. Thankfully, nothing of the sort happened. Unfortunately, that was because the mill workers had very little to do with the story.
The US Premiere of the UK musical Flashdance will take place on January 1, 2013 at Pittsburgh’s Heinz Hall before heading out to tour the country.
Since the show is set in Pittsburgh, the Steel City was a natural choice to host its tour launch and I’m pretty excited to see my hometown getting the recognition it deserves from the producers. I am a little concerned about how the show may be received, though.
Not having seen the show, I have only this and other press reels to judge it by and I’m worried about the representation of the steel workers in this musical. It’s difficult to tell from such short clips but I can see the show running the risk of trivializing the mill workers or creating token characters of them. This would really have a good chance of turning off audiences in Pittsburgh where the steel industry is a huge part of our culture and most families at least know someone who has worked as a part of it at some point in their history. If the mill workers break out into a hyper-glitzed, over-choreographed company number (as characters are wont to do in musicals) at any point in the evening I don’t see it going over very well with Pittsburgh audiences.
I’m not saying that any of this is necessarily going to happen. Musicals certainly have the ability to do great honor to working class men and women, and one need look no further than Billy Elliot to see a great example of that ability. Again, I haven’t seen the show so my whole concern may very well be unfounded, and Pittsburghers may be far less sensitive than I imagine, but this is just a concern I had watching these promos; that if the show trivializes the mill folks and if the audiences take offence to the misrepresentation, it could seriously damage this show before it even gets on its feet.
My (probably overblown) concerns aside, I am quite excited for this show to premiere. I’ve never seen the movie, but I’m thrilled for Pittsburgh to be given the honor of premiering a new musical and the cast looks pretty great:
I’m also thrilled to bits that Matthew Hydzik will be one of the leads. I saw him almost seven years ago when the Non-Equity tour of Rent came through Pittsburgh and he was understudying Roger and wowed me in every way. I’ll definitely do my best to catch the show when it opens and can then give a more informed opinion on it.