Anne-Marie Marquess relives the 1980s dance audition of the decade

For those of you old enough to remember, Flashdance was one of those pivotal 80s films with a soundtrack that you would never forget. Like Fame and Footloose, the music is what made the movie memorable. For wannabes everywhere 'Flashdance – What a Feeling' was the song that dance dreams were made of.

Based on the true story of Maureen Marder, a construction worker by day and a dancer in a Toronto club by night, who aspires to get a place in a prestigious dance school, the movie went on to gross $150 million worldwide. 

The film was a box office success but a disappointed Marder only pocketed a paltry $2300. She is now working on her autobiography, due to be published in the near future, in which all will be revealed.

Flashdance – The Musical brings together all the songs you remember and a lot more you’ve never heard of. It’s a cheerful adaptation of the movie but you do find yourself the whole way through waiting to hear the songs that you actually know.

Victoria Hamilton-Barrit is well cast as the lead, the tough yet feminine welder Alex Owens. Able to act the tomboy in her overalls yet toned enough to strip off to deliver her scantily clad dance moves, she looks the part. ‘The kind of moves I do you don’t learn in class.’

The first half of the musical sets the scene and then 'Maniac', one of the songs the Flashdance phenomenon is famous for, plays. This was good but it seemed a bit tame with lots of stretching moves. She’s meant to be ‘dancing like she’s never danced before’.

It would have been exciting to see more of the fast moves in the original film. Or even show some artistic licence and really speed things up, go a bit wild! If there was ever a song for a girl to go crazy to, it’s 'Maniac'.

Things pick up in the second half. After Alex’s mother dies, there’s a great sequence, with dancers dressed in black performing in a macabre, zombie-like manner, with a rather sinister version of 'Maniac' thrown in, quite different from the original. Robbie Roth’s re-working of the song definitely works.

We also have 'I Love Rock 'n' Roll' and 'Gloria' to get things going. Finally, the moment we’ve all been waiting for, 'Flashdance – What a Feeling'. Made famous in the movie by Jennifer Beals, sung originally by Irene Cara, copied by Jennifer Lopez, Gerri Halliwell and numerous others, and more famous than the film itself, this was the dance audition of the decade.

We hear the line, ‘You have 3 minutes’, and off we go. The audience love it and immediately start clapping. The music takes control, we get an adrenaline filled performance and unlike the original movie, there’s no body double, it’s all 100% genuine. 

Throughout the show, Bernie Nolan reminds us why the Nolan sisters were famous in the first place, delivering a wonderful vocal performance as Alex’s mother. Hearsay’s Noel Sullivan plays a young Nick Hurley, the love interest, and Ruthie Stephens, Djalenga Scott and Carryl Thomas are a superb singing trio, belting out the 80s numbers on a platform overlooking the stage.

But the star of the show is of course Victoria Hamilton-Barrit, who brings our movie heroine back to life. If you fancy a trip back to the 80s featuring some classic pop songs, you won’t be disappointed, and it will definitely inspire you to get those old records out.

Flashdance - The Musical is currently showing at the Grand Opera House in Belfast until Saturday 21st March.