The Playhouse, Edinburgh
Anyone wishing to see the connections between classical ballet and shaking your stuff in late-night dives as salvation from the 1980s recession could do worse than check out this touring revival of the musical stage version of Adrian Lyne’s 1983 film. Back then, in a post Fame, pre Billy Elliot world, Tom Hedley’s original story concerning Pittsburgh teenager Alex was as blue-collar aspirational as it got. Alex does dayshifts as a welder at the local steelworks before thrusting her way through a late-night floor-show at the local club, all the time harbouring dreams of joining the tutu-clad elite at the Shipley Dance Academy.
Enter boss’s son Nick, who attempts to buy his way into Alex’s affections while being forced to lay off shop-floor staff. With the club Alex dances in similarly exposed to hard times, this ushers in a sub-plot concerning even more hardcore small-town sexploitation, until Alex and everyone else come good, with Nick forsaking the evils of late twentieth century capitalism.
Hedley’s book, co-written with Robert Cary, who co-wrote the show’s lyrics with composer Robbie Roth, is a busy construction, with Hannah Chissick’s Selladoor Productions-led affair modelled on a 2013 Swedish take on the show. This is carried by the fearless chutzpah of Verity Jones as Alex, gamely supported by Colin Kiyani as Nick and a breathless cast.
While there’s something clearly going on beyond the double denim, pink neon and stretch-lycra throwbacks, it’s perhaps telling that the show’s best numbers – Maniac, Gloria, a wisely milked What a Feeling, plus a raunchy version of the Arrows/Joan Jett and the Blackhearts anthem, I Love Rock‘n’Roll – are all from the film. The end result is an entertaining and energetic time capsule that isn’t quite ready yet to stand on its own two feet.
The Herald, January 19th 2018