by LIZA MITCHELL
Jillian Mueller wasn’t even born when Flashdance first danced onto the silver screen and into our collective pop consciousness, but the young performer feels like she was destined to play the role of Alex Owens. Mueller plays the lead role, first brought to life by Jennifer Beale in the stage adaptation of the classic 1983 film. The show celebrates the 30th anniversary of the film and is presented of the Artist Series Broadway in Jacksonville Dec. 10-15 in the Moran Theater at the Times-Union Center for the Arts.
The national tour of Flashdance-The Musical tells the story of a Owens, a young Pittsburgh steel worker with dreams of becoming a dancer. Mueller performs back to back, high energy dance sequences in the musical, including the iconic chair and water scene and even learned how to wield a blow torch as a nod to the original film, which Mueller says she was “infatuated with” after getting a copy for Christmas when she was 7. She is thrilled for the opportunity to be a part of history and experience her childhood fantasies brought to life.
“It’s very surreal. It’s a little bit like a dream, like I can’t believe this is happening to me. It’s crazy. It’s tricky to balance being true to the character and making it my own. Playing a character that is so iconic, people literally expect Jennifer Beale from 30 years ago to come out on stage. That’s impossible,” Mueller says. “You have to find your own truth and define the basic traits of that character and hone them. That where it kind of clicked for me, playing what everybody knows but also still having my own imprint on it. The classic scenes also lend themselves to making everyone happy because they are from the movie.”
The Flashdance film is synonymous with the 1980s and memorialized such soundtrack classics as ‘Maniac,’ ‘Manhunt,’ ‘I Love Rock & Roll,’ ‘What A Feeling!’ and other great songs. The film also showcased the fashion of the era from leg warmers, headbands and off-the-shoulder sweatshirts. The Broadway show features 16 new songs and the choreography of Sergio Trujillo, who also choreographed a much younger Mueller in Memphis. While the film is only an hour and a half, the stage production is an hour longer with a more in depth storyline and, of course, more dancing. Mueller has the skillset to handle the choreography, but preparing physically for eight shows a week was the biggest challenge.
“I only had two weeks before I started rehearsals so the biggest thing for me was stamina because I am like go, go, go on stage for two and a half hours,” Mueller says, referring to her intensive training with Trujillo. “It kind of felt like boot camp a little bit. I was on the treadmill a lot, running and singing and just trying to get myself in shape. It wasn’t anything too crazy. I’ve been in plays before where I had to learn the guitar, so the blow torch thing was like a quick, five-minute lesson. It’s not like they were going to teach me how to dance for a show. I have years and years of experience, so I could just focus on using the skills that I have for this show.”
Mueller and the rest of the stunning ensemble cast are ready to showcase their incredible talents and show us why Flashdance continues to resonate with audiences three decades later. “We will give you everything you know and love from the movie and then some,” she says. “It’s one of those very few movies that everyone knows. Even people who haven’t seen the movie know the water scene. It never gets old.”
Flashdance–The Musical will come to Jacksonville’s Times-Union Center’s Moran Theater from December 10-15, for 8 performances. Tickets start at $32.00 and are available at the Artist Series Box Office between 10 am-5pm, Monday-Friday, at (904) 442-BWAY (2929) and online 24/7 at www.artistseriesjax.org.
by LIZA MITCHELL