Flashdance the Musical

Emily Padgett as Alex in "Flashdance the Musical," now playing at the Hippodrome. (Kyle Froman, Handout / December 27, 2012)

If such golden oldies as "Maniac," "I Love Rock 'n' Roll" and, of course, "Flashdance… What a Feeling" still run through your head, there's a show heading to Baltimore ready to scoop you up in a wave of feel-good nostalgia.

Those songs played an integral role in a 1983, critic-proof Paramount Pictures release called "Flashdance," about a young woman named Alex who worked as a welder in Pittsburgh, but dreamed of being a professional dancer.

Three decades later, along comes "Flashdance — The Musical," complete with the famous water-dousing dance scene that got many a teenage hormone racing in movie theaters.

It's one more in a long line of movies-turned-into-stage-vehicles, but it's not following the usual trajectory. Rather than saving a national tour until after a Broadway run, this show is doing the traveling first.

The tour opened last month, fittingly, in Pittsburgh, and will have visited about two dozen cities by midsummer. A Broadway opening has been talked about for August.

This is not the same "Flashdance" that opened in Plymouth, England, in 2008 and toured that country before hitting London's West End.

"I was invited to London to doctor the show," said director and choreographer Sergio Trujillo. "I decided that instead of fixing it I wanted to start from scratch."

Trujillo, whose extensive credits include choreographing such award-winning shows as "Jersey Boys," "Memphis," "Next to Normal" and "The Addams Family," came to the "Flashdance" project with his own bit of nostalgia.

"I started dancing around the time I saw the movie," said the Colombian-born Trujillo, who was raised in Canada. "I was incredibly moved and inspired by it. It's a rags-to-riches, blue-collar story of someone who dreams to dance. And I started dancing late, just like Alex did."

By 1989, Trujillo was in New York dancing in hit Broadway shows; by 2005, he was choreographing them.

"Flashdance," with a book by Robert Cary and Tom Hedley (co-writer of the movie screenplay), has as a musical flash point the hits from the film.

"I inherited the [movie's] iconic songs," Trujillo said. "But we also needed songs that are character-driven or story-telling. That was important for us."

Cary and Robbie Roth fashioned more than a dozen new songs for the show. Those are not the only differences with the film.

Some characters have been cut or fused into one, for example. But none of the changes "depart too far away from the essence of the story," Trujillo said. "I understand how iconic the movie is. I wanted the audience to feel comfortable, to experience what they remember, but in such a way that it feels fresh."

One big thing that the two "Flashdance" products don't have in common has to do with the central character of Alex. Whatever qualities Jennifer Beals brought to the screen in that role, dancing was not one of them. Body doubles (including, at one point, a man) provided the vibrant moves.

Such sleight of eye could never be attempted live onstage.

"The challenge was finding dancers who could be triple and quadruple threats," Trujillo said, "dancers who were classically trained, but able to do jazz, hip hop, exotic dancing — and be able to sing."

The director/choreographer found his Alex in Emily Padgett, who has had featured roles on Broadway in "Grease," "Legally Blonde" and others.

Padgett, who sings 14 of the songs in "Flashdance," was used to tackling the vocal side of a musical. A dance-driven show was something else entirely. She started preparing for this assignment two years ago.

"When Sergio told me he was interested in me for this, I told him, 'There's no way. You're crazy.' But he never gave up on me," Padgett said. "This show is the hardest I've ever done. A one o'clock matinee can be a killer sometimes. That's when I wish I had a body double."