Tom Hedley sympathizes with those who complain about Broadway's over-reliance on adapting movies into musicals.
"I'm on the side of the critics who disparage movies being made into theater pieces," Hedley said from his home in Florida. "It just so happens I'm making one."
Hedley cowrote the book for "Flashdance - The Musical," which opens Tuesday for a two-week run at PlayhouseSquare's Palace Theatre. He also is credited for the story and cowrote the original screenplay for the 1983 film that inspired it.
Sydney Morton recreates one of the iconic moments from the 1983 film that inspired “Flashdance — the Musical.”
Photo by Denise Truscello
What makes this screen-to-stage adaptation different is that he always envisioned "Flashdance" as a musical, and it nearly became one first.
The inspiration for the screenplay came when an artist friend recommended a club where one of his nude models danced.
"There were a bunch of girls, blue collar girls, who were sort of parodying stripping, doing a modern take on it," Hedley said. "They'd make up funny names, like Gina Gina the Sex Machina ... It was a little bit of a cabaret. They did their own choreography. I never saw anything like this."
When You Go
WHAT: "Flashdance - The Musical"
WHEN: Tuesday through April 13. Show times are 7:30 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, 1:30 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday and 1 and 6:30 p.m. Sunday.
WHERE: Palace Theatre, PlayhouseSquare, 1519 Euclid Ave., Cleveland
HOW MUCH: Tickets range from $10 to $75.
He started interviewing the women and tried to conceive a film based on their stories. It was during this time he coined the term "Flashdance."
"When fashion, dance and music come together in a flash - that's 'Flashdance,'" he said.
Hedley gave his screenplay to stage and film director Bob Fosse, who said he didn't see it working as a movie, but he thought the foundation was there for a stage musical. Before Hedley could do anything with Fosse's notes, the film was put into production by Paramount Pictures.
It wasn't the brilliance of the screenplay that got the movie greenlit. Paramount had a couple comedies it was counting on fall through, and it was looking at scripts they had the rights to that could be put into production to fill the gap.
"Frank Mancuso, who was the head of marketing then, said, 'I can sell this one, the one about the girls dancing'," Hedley said.
The rest, as they say, is history. On a budget of about $7 million, the film about a welder by day and stripper by night who dreamed of being a ballerina earned about $93 million in theaters, spawned fashion trends and influenced the way movies were edited and marketed. It also produced multiple hit singles, including "Flashdance ... What a Feeling," which won the Academy Award for Best Original Song.
"It really was a phenomenon ... a happy accident," he said.
The studio was more interested in a sequel than a stage version in the mid-'80s, but it never happened.
"What was I gong to do, have her become a ballerina and run off to have an affair with (Mikhail) Baryshnikov? I couldn't find a way I was comfortable with to do any kind of sequel."
A musical was talked about at different times over the next couple decades. Giorgio Moroder, who was responsible for most of the music in the movie, was among those who attempted the transformation and walked away. Hedley said he was told by the producers that it would wasn't going to happen unless he got involved.
He compared the process to handling a snake.
"They slither away from you all the time. Something works, then something else doesn't work."
The path of "Flashdance - The Musical" has been as untraditional as the one followed by the movie. It originally was slated to open on Broadway in the fall of 2012, with its national tour slated to start in January 2013 in Pittsburgh, where the movie was set.
"Flashdance" is produced by Richard Frankel Productions (Liberty native Marc Routh is a producing partner with the company), and Hedley said when RFP's musical "Leap of Faith" closed after three weeks on Broadway in May 2012, it forced the producers to rethink the strategy.
"It was a setback," Hedley said. "They didn't know how to handle that loss, a lot of money in a short period of time."
Instead of mounting two productions simultaneously, the producers decided to use the sets under construction for Broadway on the road and pushed back the New York opening until after the current tour, now in its second year, ends. Hedley said audiences for the tour essentially are seeing what would have been and what will be the Broadway cast.
The name recognition of "Flashdance" has helped sell tickets even without a Broadway track record. The show has gotten some rave reviews and some mixed reviews on the road, and Hedley agrees with some of the criticisms. But it's impossible to revamp a show while meeting travel demands and an eight-shows-a-week schedule, so there will be some differences between the production audiences will see in Cleveland in April compared to the one coming to Broadway later this year.
"It's taking forever for this thing to get to Broadway, but that's better than rushing it into Broadway and after two months, it's dead ... We have to get it right for Broadway, that's the key. We will be a target definitely."