Sydney Morton dances like she’s never danced before in ‘Flashdance’
There are moments in film that will be forever immortalized in the minds and collective subconscious of society: Marlon Brando shouting for “Stella,” Forrest Gump’s unpredictable box of chocolates. When it comes to iconic ’80s dance flicks, though, one that inevitably comes to mind is “Flashdance.”
“Flashdance” is the story of Alex Owens, originated by Jennifer Beals in legwarmers in 1983. As the song “Maniac” goes, she’s “a small town girl” who works at a steel mill by day and dances in a cabaret by night but dreams of joining the ballet. With persistence, panache and a good deal of dance montage, Alex sashays her way through life to a very important audition. The rest, as they say, is history. Until now.
Meet Sydney Morton, the striking dancer and actress who portrays Alex in the new stage adaptation of the film, currently on tour in the US. With credits that include Broadway’s “Memphis,” “Evita” and “Motown,” Morton was tasked with bringing a well-known character to life, live, night after night.
How do you prepare for a show like this? Do you watch the film repeatedly to get it down?
I try to stay away from watching source material too much with a role like this. While Alex Owens is iconic, she isn’t a real historical figure, so there is a little more freedom for interpretation. … I approached this role by trying to understand who she is, finding myself in her and letting my performance grow into someone who feels real through rehearsals.
Is preparation for this particular role any different from previous roles you’ve had?
This is one of the most difficult roles I have ever performed, let alone seen on a stage before. I not only dance my heart out eight times a week but I also perform numerous songs, fight choreography and scenes with my fellow actors. I have been dancing since I was a little girl and taking vocal lessons since I was a teenager. I also went to school to earn a degree in musical theatre. I’m not sure I could have done this role without all of that preparation. In addition, I have had almost two months of rehearsing and conditioning for the show itself, in order to build my stamina and get comfortable in the role.
What are some of the challenges of translating such a well-known to the stage?
Many images from this movie are so iconic, so it is definitely our responsibility to bring them in the show. But our show is also different in many ways: there are many new songs in addition to five songs from the movie. The characters in the stage show are more fleshed-out than in the movie, especially the supporting characters and their stories. As a result, I feel like the audience is both getting their nostalgic fix while experiencing something new.
Were you familiar with the film before landing this role?
I was definitely familiar with the movie and music. … I always felt like Jennifer Beals looked like a “grown-up” version of me, so I sort of idolized her in the role. I wanted to be a ballet dancer − basically, the whole movie spoke to me.
And the water scene?
Ahh, the water scene. Of course, when I first got the job, this was the first thing everyone asked me about. I got to rehearse the choreography without the water in a studio for weeks, but I actually only got to rehearse it one time with the water before my first performance. We use five gallons of water total throughout the whole dance, not just the final moment. It is a totally exhilarating experience. The water is heated, thank goodness, and I know that every time I do it, the audience is loving it. I couldn’t ask for anything more.
“Flashdance: The Musical”
Through March 23
Citi Emerson Colonial Theater
106 Boylston St., Boston