Preview: Stars add to local roots of 'Flashdance'

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Thirty years after the film "Flashdance" had us dancing to chart-topping songs such as "What a Feeling" and "I Love Rock 'n' Roll," the '80s are coming back, this time in the form of "Flashdance -- The Musical." The world-premiere national tour launches New Year's Day in Pittsburgh, where the movie was filmed, and a second company heads to Broadway next year.

With much fanfare, including a proclamation from Pittsburgh Mayor Ravenstahl that Jan. 1 is Flashdance Day, the tour's three stars were revealed Friday at Heinz Hall: Pittsburghers Matthew Hydzik as leading man Nick and Rachelle Rak as sassy Tess, along with Emily Padgett as Alex Owens, the blue-collar worker with dreams of being taken seriously as a dancer.

'Flashdance The Musical' to play here before Broadway

With much fanfare, including a proclamation from Pittsburgh Mayor Ravenstahl, "Flashdance The Musical" showed off the Pittsburgh stars ushering in a pre-Broadway run on the Heinz Hall stage. The run begins Jan. 1. (Video by Doug Oster; 11/9/2012)


The trio performed four numbers at a morning press conference at Heinz Hall, the Cultural District venue for the show, which is part of the PNC Broadway Across America -- Pittsburgh series.

Sergio Trujillo, the choreographer of Tony winners "Jersey Boys" and "Memphis," makes his directorial debut. He said the 1983 movie inspired him to leave his studies as a biochemist and become a dancer. He also recalled how he had come to Pittsburgh as part of a tour of "Kiss of the Spider-Woman."

"I remember coming in for the first time and I was awed by the bridges and the charm of the streets," he said as images of sets influenced by the cityscape were displayed on a television screen.

The film soundtrack featuring "Flashdance -- What a Feeling," "Maniac," "Gloria" and "Manhunt" won a Grammy and featured a handful of radio hits. The new musical, not to be confused with the "Flashdance" that toured in the United Kingdom a few years back, includes those tunes and 14 new songs with music by Robbie Roth, lyrics by Robert Cary and Mr. Roth. The book is by Tom Hedley, a co-writer of the screenplay whose original concept for "Flashdance" was for the stage -- "Before Hollywood got a hold of it," Mr. Trujillo said.

Ms. Rak and Mr. Hydzik, working together for the first time, each brought family members to the press conference. Ms. Rak posed for cameras with her mother, Rosalene, of the Rosalene Kenneth Professional Dance Studio, and Mr. Hydzik was accompanied by his parents, brother and niece, as well as his first coach, Pam Gregg, who worked with him through the Attic Workshop in Sewickley.

"I was young so I didn't see the movie, which is kind of racy," he said. "But my parents had the vinyl record, and my brother and I used to dance, really, we wrestled to it." Mr. Hydzik was seen on Broadway from 2009-2011 as Tony in the revival of "West Side Story."

Mr. Hydzik, who recalled seeing his first show at Heinz Hall at age 6, said, "I'm the unofficial dialect coach" for the company. "We get to be a couple of yinzers," Ms. Rak said. "I have to say, 'No, no, it's Saht Side."

The singer/dancer met Mr. Trujillo when they performed in the original company of "Fosse."

"You just have this sense about people. I thought if I ever became a director, I would cast her in one of my shows," said Mr. Trujillo, who had Ms. Rak in mind for the part of Tess, Alex's loyal friend and a performance artist at a local club who champions Alex's dream of going to a dance academy.

She delivered a high-octane version of "I Love Rock 'n' Roll" at yesterday's flashy media event, which signaled the start of ticket sales for the Broadway Series show.

Mr. Hydzik, who was headed to concerts in New York and Las Vegas before heading back into rehearsal, was the last piece of the puzzle in putting together the triumvirate of stars for "Flashdance." Ms. Rak has been on board for more than a year. Until recently, she wasn't sure if she would do the tour or the Broadway show.

"When I got the information we were starting in Pittsburgh, it really swayed me to go this way," said Ms. Rak, who recalled watching the film as a 14-year-old. Her family has not seen her perform in Pittsburgh since a 1989 tour of "Starlight Express."

"It means a lot to me, being from Pittsburgh, every time [Alex] sings that song, 'underneath a steel town sky.' It's a taste of home. I can't explain it. All these years, living in New York, working on Broadway, being at home means the most to me."


Sharon Eberson: First Published November 10, 2012 5:00 AM


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