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West Orange Times & Observer Wednesday, Jul. 3, 2019 1 week ago

‘Flashdance the Musical’ shimmies to Garden Theatre stage

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Paxton Brock will star as Alex in her first-ever role with the Garden Theatre for the upcoming production of “Flashdance the Musical” premiering July 5.
by: Eric Gutierrez Staff Writer

Paxton Brock spent much of her childhood doing ballet, but she would later discover that her talents went far beyond expressing herself through movement.

“I’m a dancer first,” Brock said. “I actually did a lot of my training with the Kentucky Ballet Theater. At the time, it was heartbreaking because I was Clara in their ‘Nutcracker’ tour. I wanted to be a ballerina, and that was it for me. The principal dancer sat me down when I was little and said that I couldn’t be a ballerina and that I wasn’t cut out for the ballet world. … She said I was too expressive because when I was Clara in ‘The Nutcracker,’ I was crying real tears when the Nutcracker dies and just being dramatic.”

That same ballerina suggested that Brock was more suited for musical theater, which she eventually tried out. She’s also a singer with a background in performing and singing bluegrass music, and has even been featured onstage at folk festivals. Today, in her first-ever role with the Garden Theatre, the 22-year-old triple threat will be starring as Alex Owens in the upcoming production of “Flashdance the Musical.” 

The show premieres July 5 and runs till July 28. Showtimes are 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturdays, and 2 p.m. matinees will be held on Saturdays and Sundays. Additional 2 p.m matinees are scheduled for July 18 and July 25. Tickets cost $35 and can be purchased at the box office, by phone or online. Discounts are available for students, seniors and groups of 10 or more. The production contains adult themes and language, and viewer discretion is encouraged. 

Based off of the iconic film, “Flashdance the Musical” tells the inspiring story of 18-year-old Alex Owens who is a welder by day and ‘flashdancer” by night. Her dreams to become a professional dancer become complicated after she finds romance, but she learns to harness that romance to help drive her dreams. Like the feature film, the musical will feature the same iconic score and ’80s pop hits like “Maniac,” “Gloria,” “I Love Rock and Roll” and title track “Flashdance … What a Feeling.”

“The musical has way more plot than the movie,” Brock said. “They’ve added in some more plot just to give it some more meat and potatoes and bulk up the show, but none of the classic scenes are compromised. Anything that people are going to want to see like … the water bucket (scene), that happens in the show.”

Originally from Berea, Kentucky, Brock has lived in the Orlando area for about three years. She moved to the area with her boyfriend who is a student at the University of Central Florida and also performed in productions with the Garden Theatre in the past. 

Brock said when she found out she got the role of Alex for “Flashdance the Musical,” she was in disbelief at first because she didn’t expect to get it, but excitement later took over. Although she isn’t a welder, Brock resonates with her character’s struggles.

“(The role) speaks to my soul in a really — unfortunately — campy and dramatic way, but I really mean that because her hardships speak to me,” Brock said. “I’ve had to work hard for all of the things that I’ve achieved. … Everything I’m doing in this show has a little twinge of honesty, which I think is important for good theater.”

Paxton Brock was so expressive as a dancer that it eventually lead her to doing musical theater. She’ll be starring as Alex in the Garden Theater’s production of “Flashdance the Musical.” Photo by Steve Miller Photography.

Although she was happy to land the lead role for her first production with the Garden Theatre, the role didn’t come without its challenges. As the lead character, she spends much of the show onstage and has had to memorize a great deal of lines, choreography and lyrics. The physicality and sheer volume of memorization required for her role proved to be physically, mentally and emotionally draining at times.

“I always would say ‘I want something challenging,’ and then I got this show, and it is a beast,” Brock said. “It’s been challenging for me as a dancer because I’ve had to adapt my style, and I’ve taken a lot of classes, but it’s pushed me because I have to go from hip hop to ballet in a matter of seconds. … It’s so much dancing.”

In addition to it being her first show with the Garden Theatre, it’s the first time she’s had the opportunity to showcase all of her talents at once, which also has been challenging, she said.

“I never had a chance to fully utilize everything that I can bring to the table,” she said. “I’m being pushed in all of the directions. I’m singing, belting at the top of my lungs and singing my face off (while) I’m acting. … I’m exhausted acting-wise. I’m exhausted vocally. I’m exhausted physically.”

Despite the challenges, she’s been able to conquer them through good-old-fashioned hard work and practice. She also credits the show’s director and choreographer, Jani Walsh-Weber, for her support and encouragement throughout rehearsals. 

“I’m working every single day (on the show),” Brock said. “I’m on stage for most of the show … (but) Jani is just pushing me to build my stamina, which I’m thankful for.”

Eric Gutierrez is a staff writer with the West Orange Times & Observer and Windermere Observer. He graduated from the University of Central Florida in 2015 with a dual degree in Journalism and Political Science. Got a story idea? Contact Eric at...

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