It was a story about a young woman, a welder by trade, who had a dream of becoming a dancer despite her lack of training.
It’s been 30 years since the movie “Flashdance” entered the world of popular culture, but it still resonates today.
“When I wrote it, I was writing in response to a very ugly recession,” said Tom Hedley, the screenwriter of the movie and the man behind the musical stage performance based on the movie. “It was a real recession, there was double-digit unemployment, and our big enemy we were fighting was Iran.”
Back in 1983, the movie “Flashdance” was a huge success. The music videos from the soundtrack had a heavy rotation on MTV, teenage girls wore leg warmers and ripped sweatshirts and the film had earned more than $100 million at box offices worldwide that year.
Hedley said the story was inspired by a time when he was living in Toronto hoping to get a shot working in the movies.
He had a friend who was a painter who specialized in the female form. While the friend had been working with nudes, he needed to see movement, so he found a club in a working-class neighborhood where most of the residents worked at a steel mill.
“These girls were doing this cabaret. It was like modern burlesque, really. They weren’t strippers though,” Hedley said. “I thought they were completely original. They parodied strippers.”
The girls performed acts with music, lighting and costumes which they made with the help of their mothers and sisters. One was a gymnast and a body builder who billed herself as “Muscles Marinara.” Another was a sandblaster by trade who called herself “Gina Gina the Sex Machina.”
“There was a kind of innocence to it,” he said. “I was fascinated by these girls who were completely untrained, between 18 and 21, and they were just desperate to make something dramatic out of themselves before they, you know, it was all over and they would end up marrying the plumber down the street that they grew up with.”
Taking the movie and turning it into a musical was a challenge for Hedley. In the movie, the music was used very much like a music video. The music told the story, but without the actors facing the camera and singing.
Hedley also said the love story is very important in a stage musical.
“It wasn’t developed very well in the film,” he said. “I was so involved with the girl I just forgot to write a strong male character. He just sort of sat there and looked at the girl throughout the entire thing.”
He said in the musical, the love story between Alex and Nick is more of a story of love between classes, the rich man and the working-class girl.
“It was a completely different art form,” Hedley said. “I’m very happy I did it. It was quite daunting to do, but I’m very happy I did it. It’s quite exciting actually.”