An audience arriving for opening night of "Flashdance —The Musical" is bound to expect amazing moves.
Jacksonville native Ryan Carlson, playing a break dancer, and the rest of the cast exceeded all those expectations as the eight-show run kicked off Tuesday night. The Douglas Anderson graduate, possibly energized by his hometown crowd, showed some smooth steps and an aerial move that appeared to unwind in slow motion.
The dancing delivered, but the surprise that got the Moran Theater rocking was that star Jillian Mueller had a show-stopping voice to match her grace.
Mueller's Alex Owens and Corey Mach's Nick Hurley sparred well in a story as old as time, if time began in the '80s. The plot of rich guy woos tough girl probably extends even earlier, but this is the 30th anniversary tour of "Flashdance" — the movie. Fans might feel nostalgic for Jennifer Beals in the 1983 film, but they're unlikely to forget Mueller.
Alex welds by day, flash dances by night and dreams of making it into Pittsburgh's top dance academy. Nick — Alex's boss at the steel mill — chases Alex while also trying to fend off his family's attempts to lay off workers.
The main shortcomings of "Flashdance" are in the story. Supporting characters are given time on stage, but they deserve more plot with which to work. They have the talent but only some of the tools.
Alex's friend Gloria (Ginna Claire Mason) imagines herself as a dancer on MTV, then decides to join a strip club. Her boyfriend Jimmy (David R. Gordon) leaves for New York, chasing his own dream of standup comedy, then comes home before anyone can miss him.
While trying to offer comic relief, his "timing" is on, but his writers have offered him hits as well as misses.
Those writers fare better in scenes involving seasoned dancers Kiki (DeQuina Moore) and Tess (Alison Ewing). Moore nearly steals the show with her vigorous voice and intense acting.
Though not perfect, "Flashdance The Musical" soars on graceful steps, gravity-defying moves and Mueller's superb voice.
The eight-show run continues with shows nightly through Sunday, Dec. 15, and matinees on Dec. 14 and 15.
Tickets are available through www.artistseriesjax.org.