“Flashdance the Musical”, the musical theater adaptation of the 1980s hit movie, “Flashdance”, will be performed March 15 to 17 at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts.
Rachelle Rak, who plays Tess, describes the show as “full of heart.”
The musical follows the unforgettable journey that Alex, a Pittsburgh steel-mill worker, takes as she aspires to become a dancer in 1980s America.
“Alex worked in the steel mill by day and she worked at the club by night. She wanted to be a dancer,” Rak said, “She was dancing on her own gut instinct, making choreography and doing all sorts of tricks. She has hope, she has heart, she has determination and all she really wants to do is get into the prestigious Shipley Academy. But she is afraid.”
Since Alex has no training, she learns from the street performers she befriends and develops her own dance style.
Rak plays a flashdancer at the club named, Tess. Flashdacners work as entertainers at the club and, as Rak describes, are “performance artists because they always have a hint of a strip tease, but a whole lot of talent.”
Tess, along with hip-hop street performers and other dancers at the club inspire and guide Alex along the way. Tikki and Tess, both flashdancers, give invaluable advice to Alex and deliver the true moral lessons of the show.
“Tikki and Tess have worked at the bar for years and we are a little bit older,” said Rak. “We want to persuade Alex to make better choices and to go for her dream.”
Rak said that her character is “the voice in the corner that pushes Alex to go from ‘I think I can, I think I can, I think I can’ to ‘I can’.”
“Alex also falls in love on the other side of the tracks. Flashdance is a story about falling in love with someone from a higher class and the conflicts that go along with that,” said Rak.
Rak has played numerous roles on Broadway and choreographed for the Norwegian Cruise Line this year. She feels that the story, time period, and character of Alex resonate with her own life.
Rak grew up in Pittsburgh around the time the show is set. Like Alex, she wanted to be a dancer.
“I didn’t know how to get to New York. So Alex’s story hits homes for me personally,” she said.
She has been involved with this project since its inception and applauds the casting of lead actress, Emily Padgett, as Alex.
She said, “Emily Padgett is a dancer. She can sing and went into full training of all the different types of dance. And for me, she is the perfect example of heart … She portrays the character beautifully because she has the fire, she has the sense of humor, she also has the vulnerability we all have. No matter how many walls we put up that we are fine, we have feelings and she shows her fear and vulnerability, yet still pushes forward.”
The themes of doubt, perseverance and unyielding determination are central to the show and Rak believes that everyone, even people not in show business, can identify with the underlying meaning of Alex’s journey.
Alex , learns that making it in show business constantly requires adjusting to changes on the stage and in life. Rak remembers a similar lesson she learned from performing that she applies to her everyday life.
When she was about 12, Rak was getting ready to do a tap dance performance in Atlantic City. When she got to the venue, she saw a large pole right in the middle of the stage.
Rak said, “When I saw the pole, I said to my mother, ‘there is this pole in the middle of the stage how am I going to do my big fly aerial?’ And she said, ‘Rochelle, just do it around the pole, adjust.’ That saying and the word ‘adjust’ has applied to my life for the 25 years that I have continued to have in show business because I have learned to be willing to perform in all imperfect situations.”
Rak is happy to be in South Florida doing what she does best.
I have been in seven Broadway shows and they were all wonderful. But being here on stage in New Orleans, Fort Lauderdale or Tampa, it all feels the same. It’s being part of something much bigger than you. And telling a story through singing, dancing and acting.”
Rak says that the show is a great way to escape and is a constant reminder of hope.
“For the audience, this is a way to escape. It reminds you that there is hope. But the idea is to let people enjoy the story — stand up, clap along, sing along, have a fun night, but also be inspired. That’s what we want from theater.”