HANNAH Chissick, former artistic director of Harrogate Theatre, returns to North Yorkshire soil tonight, this time with her national tour of Flashdance – The Musical at the Grand Opera House, York.

The early Eighties’ American musical is doing the regional rounds for the first time since 2011 with a cast led by 2016 Strictly Come Dancing Glitterball winner Joanne Clifton as Alex Owens and A1 singer Ben Adams as Nick Hurley. Adams, by the way, will be back in York next month to star as Robin in the York Barbican pantomime Robin Hood And The Babes In The Wood.

Flashdance tells the inspiring story of 18-year-old Alex, a Pittsburgh welder by day and “flashdancer” by night, who dreams of winning a place at the prestigious Shipley Dance Academy and becoming a professional ballerina, but a new romance complicates her ambitions in a show best known for the songs Maniac, Manhunt, Gloria, I Love Rock And Roll and the title track Flashdance – What A Feeling.

Welcome back to Yorkshire, Hannah, who was in charge at Harrogate Theatre from 2003 to 2006, making her mark with productions of Alan Ayckbourn's House & Garden, John Godber's Bouncers and Teechers and Yasmina Reza's Art.

“I’ve been a freelance since leaving, more than ten years now,” she said, at the Flashdance rehearsal studios in Southwark, London.

“Matt (choreographer Matthew Cole) and I have worked together many, many times, including on the musical Side Show at Southwark Playhouse at the back end of last year, and just by good fortune we were rehearsing Side Show where the offices of Selladoor, Flashdance’s producers, happen to be. They watched a run of Act One for Side Show and promptly asked us to do Flashdance for them.”

Acknowledging how “iconic” Flashdance was from its movie version, Hannah and Matthew decided their production should, in part at least, be a homage to Adrian Lyne’s 1983 film. “We wanted to have the key big moments moments, like the water drop, but we also thought about what would make you want to go to the theatre to see it rather than just watch the film again,” says Hannah.

“We knew we wanted to have that Eighties MTV vibe, then effortlessly transfer it to a Pittsburgh steelworks, with quick scene changes as I don’t want audiences to have to watch sofas being moved across the stage. It’s a show that’s constantly on the move: the dances are hard, difficult and they’re relentless; the cast dance and they dance and they dance, and it’s important to me they show the passion of the dance.

York Press:

"It feels like a jackpot win for me to be working with Joanne Clifton," says director Hannah Chissick

“But at the same time that you have this high-octane choreography, it’s also important you invest in the story, in Alex’s journey and the stories around her. I thought, ‘what can I lend to it as a director?’, and though there’s nothing wrong with having a fantastic night and a party, in the middle of it, I wanted you be rooting for someone.

"It's the immediacy of the personal relationship that theatre develops really well, when you're experiencing something live with others around you in the same room, and it feels like the first time for everyone there."

Hannah is delighted to have Joanne Clifton and Ben Adams leading her cast. "If you're going to do a show about a dancer, you couldn't do better than have a world champion dancer playing Alex, so it feels like a jackpot win for me to be working with Joanne," she says.

"Ben is an incredible singer, and one other thing is I don't think people know just how well they can act and just how well Joanne can sing. They're both really passionate about musical theatre; Ben has just written his first musical, Eugenius!, and Joanne has always wanted to work in musical theatre. I'm so excited for people to see this side of Joanne and Ben's talents."

Hannah says her production is more a celebration rather than a reinvention of Flashdance. "I make no apology for that when the world is full of challenges, so a bit of passion, a bit of heart, a good night out, is very timely right now, rather than trying to make something contemporary out of the show," she reasons.

"The Eighties are very 'in' now, so time wise it fits in well and doesn't feel antiquated, but at the same time there's always been a lot of affection for this musical."   

Flashdance – The Musical, Grand Opera House, York, tonight until Saturday, 7.30pm and 2.30pm Wednesday and Saturday matinees. Box office: 0844 871 3024 or at atgtickets.com/york