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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, March 29, 2013 - Volume 41 Issue 13
What a feeling! - An interview with Emily Padgett, star of the stage adaptation of Flashdance
Arts & Entertainment
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What a feeling! - An interview with Emily Padgett, star of the stage adaptation of Flashdance

by Eric Andrews-Katz - SGN A&E Writer

FLASHDANCE: THE MUSICAL PARAMOUNT THEATRE April 16 - 21

Flashdance is a movie from 1983 about a pretty woman named Alex, who is a steelworker by day and an exotic dancer by night. Although it opened to mixed reviews, the movie became a cult classic. Holding true to the current trend of theater, producers have taken the film and reworked it for the stage. Flashdance: The Musical is now making its pre-Broadway premiere at Seattle's Paramount Theatre. SGN caught up with the star of the musical, Emily Padgett.

Eric Andrews-Katz: Who were your earliest influences as a performer?

Emily Padgett: It was probably my parents. When I was a little girl in the '80s, my parents went to New York a lot and saw all the [Andrew] Lloyd Webber shows. They saw Evita and Phantom of the Opera & Patti LuPone was definitely an early influence on me. So was Bernadette Peters - all those pioneer Broadway women were. In high school I had a chorus teacher who influenced me to go to New York City and try to make my dreams happen.

Andrews-Katz: What started your interest in musical theater?

Padgett: I used to act out songs in the mirror and got hooked on them early on. The first shows I remember listening to were Evita (a lot of Evita), and then there was Phantom and Into the Woods. As I got older it was Wicked, but by then I listened to everything, as there wasn't much I didn't love.

Andrews-Katz: Your first Broadway musical was Grease. How did you come up for that audition?

Padgett: I was non-Equity at that time and finished my first job in CATS (I played Demeter) when I was 19. I was in the city auditioning and crashed Equity auditions all the time just trying to be seen. A casting director took an interest in me. I sang eight bars (a unique arrangement of 'It Might As Well Be Spring' in a warm, low, chesty key) and she gave me a callback, then a dance session call. I got hired as a swing and then got my Equity card. It was all very scary and exciting since I was very new to this. I thought I'd have more credits by that time, but that's how it worked for me.

Andrews-Katz: From Grease you went to Legally Blonde, the musical. What differences did you notice going from an established musical to one never performed on Broadway?

Padgett: When I joined the cast of Legally Blonde, it was already up and running. I was part of the 'new kids' there and so there wasn't a lot of room to be creative. I was still an ensemble. For Grease (the second time) it was part of the revival from the reality-show casting ('You're the One That I Want'), although I wasn't part of the reality show, so I didn't feel like it was a typical revival. Legally Blonde was more fun!

Andrews-Katz: After Grease you were in the chorus of Rock of Ages before becoming the lead of the show. What were some of the most challenging aspects of this musical?

Padgett: It was probably the voice stamina. Figuring out how to wail your face off and still do it safely eight shows a week. I grew up signing rock and country, so that part came naturally for me, but to do it in a stage way was tricky. It was great training, though. Now I sing 14 songs in Flashdance, and that's a pretty 'rock 'n' roll' show. I feel that after Rock of Ages, I can sing almost anything - it was good training.

Andrews-Katz: After all the stage experience you've had, what is the one greatest challenge that still taunts you about performing?

Padgett: It's always a challenge for me to be on stage and go moment-to-moment with each scene and each take. Bringing what happened beforehand into the next scene with all the emotions. When you do a show eight times a week it gets exhausting. There are certain days when you find that you're not really thinking about the show, and it can be a challenge to stay present. Musicals are such an extension of reality so they're fun and take a lot of energy, [but they] can be really intense and exhausting also. Staying present and making the choices not to fall onto a standby performance is the real challenge - not to let it get stale. Then it's no fun for anyone.

Andrews-Katz: How did you first come to be involved in Flashdance?

Padgett: I was doing the musical White Noise with [director] Sergio [Trujillo] - that's how I met him - and danced a little in the show. He just kept on talking about Flashdance: The Musical with me, and I thought he was crazy because I don't dance like that. I agreed to do a couple of readings and he wanted me to go audition with all these amazing dancers. I was terrified and freaked out, and didn't go. Because I was scared of it, very much like the character Alex is in the show. I still dance like I'm fighting for it, like Alex does. She gives it everything she has and I do the same every night. I can't fall back on the techniques of my dance training for this show, and I think it resonated with the powers-that-be that I seem to have a lot of similarities to the main character, Alex.

Andrews-Katz: What major changes have been made to the stage production, as opposed to the film version?

Padgett: The storylines are bigger, including the full romance. He's not older as in the movie version. I feel like the film is a little dark and a little 'culty,' like it's a giant music video. To try to put that on stage isn't going to work. We focused on the storylines more, and the relationship between Alex and her friends, and Nick. Nick has more of a role, being younger than in the film, and the roles have been expanded.

Andrews-Katz: Which familiar songs get revised, and how many new songs have been added?

Padgett: There were 15 book songs written for the show, but the classics are still here. 'Maniac,' 'I Love Rock 'n' Roll,' and 'Gloria' have all made it into the show. It's everything in the movie that you loved, but more, because it's not just the movie on stage.

Andrews-Katz: Does the infamous shower scene make its appearance? Is there a 'splash zone' warning for the first few rows?

Padgett: There is no splash zone, although I thought there would be one. It's pretty brilliant how they contain all that water. There is lots of water. We beefed it up for the stage to make it more of a spectacle.

Andrews-Katz: If you could play any role - regardless of gender - what would it be, and why?

Padgett: Hmm. That's difficult. What would you do?

Andrews-Katz: Ah, no one's ever turned that around on me. I would have to say the darker diva roles: Mama Rose, the Witch in Into the Woods, or Diana in Next to Normal.

Padgett: Those are good. I will say a role that I'm dying to play, but won't until I'm older, is Desiree Armfeldt from A Little Night Music. That is one of my favorite shows and 'Send in the Clowns' is one of my favorite songs. The show is so unbelievably clever.

Flashdance was originally released in 1983, starring Jennifer Beals. It received four Academy Award nominations: Best Film Editing, Best Cinematography, and two for Best Original Song ('Flashdance ... What a Feeling' and 'Maniac'), the former of which won the Oscar. Tom Hedley, Robert Cary, and Robbie Roth write the script, lyrics, and music for the stage version, with direction and choreography by Sergio Trujillo (Jersey Boys, Next to Normal).

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