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'Flashdance: The Musical' writer talks moonwalking and returning to Philly

Jillian Mueller is aspiring dancer Alex Owens in the stage version of "Flashdance." Credit: Jeremy Daniel Jillian Mueller is aspiring dancer Alex Owens in the stage version of "Flashdance."
Credit: Jeremy Daniel

The 1983 film "Flashdance" was the first exposure to hip-hop culture for much of mainstream America. The film featured several B-boy dance sequences and breakdancers.

“It had those elements; it was pop-locking, that's what it was called back then,” says Tom Hedley, who co-wrote the screenplay for the movie “Flashdance” and collaborated with Robert Cary on the script for “Flashdance: The Musical,” which plays Nov. 19-24 at the Academy of Music.

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“We were the first to film the moonwalk,” Hedley says. “In fact, Michael Jackson, who was very affected by ‘Flashdance,’ picked that up; there were lots of firsts with 'Flashdance.'”

The movie, which stars Jennifer Beals, used a quick-cut style of filmmaking similar to the then-nascent music video form.

“The critics attacked for it being too much like a music video, but there were some people who got the picture,” Hedley says. “[Director Adrian Lyne] made a very bold decision: 'This music video vocabulary is very interesting so I want to try to use the vocabulary of the music video to tell the story.' If he hadn’t done that, it wouldn't have been successful.”

“Flashdance,” the story of Pittsburgh steel mill welder Alex Owens who dreams of becoming a dancer, was a cultural phenomenon featuring breakout hits like “Flashdance... What a Feeling,” “Maniac” and “Gloria,” as well as starting the ripped sweats and legwarmers fashion trend. Now comes the play, which has the original songs and 16 new ones.

All good things take time.

“For years people were after me to do ... a sequel to the movie and I never thought that was a good idea,” says Hedley, a former editor for Esquire magazine. “What would you do? It would be very cheesy. Team Alexandra with Baryshnikov?”

“Flashdance: The Musical" debuted in the U.K. in 2008 and seems destined — like Alex Owens — for Broadway. There were several reports of a New York opening last August, which didn't come to pass.

“The producers had a big flop, actually, called ‘Leap of Faith,’ and they were nervous about losing money,” Hedley says. “(So) we had already made the deal to do a national tour.”

As for Hedley, he's coming to Philly with the musical and already knows his way around town. He worked in the city during the production of the 1982 movie “Fighting Back,” which starred Tom Skerritt and Patti Lupone, putting in18-hour days on a script rewrite.

“I got to know Philly rather well,” Hedley says. “I all but lived in the Happy Rooster.”

“Flashdance: The Musical”
Nov. 19-24
Academy of Music
240 S. Broad St.
$20-$105.50, 215-731-3333
www.kimmelcenter.org

 
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