When Jillian Mueller says she sees parallels between her life and that of Alex Owens, her character in Flashdance – The Musical, she doesn’t mean being doused with water while dancing.
“I took dance lessons at a local studio and did the whole competitive dance circuit,” Mueller told The Beat.
“There’s a lot of feedback, a lot of rejection,” she said. “That’s what this show is about. I can definitely identify.”
The New Jersey native started dancing competitively at a young age and convinced her parents to allow her to try her luck on Broadway when she was 12 years old.
She did two seasons of How the Grinch Stole Christmas at age 12 and 13, and was part of the cast of the remount of Bye Bye Birdie with John Stamos and Gina Gershon during her sophomore year in high school.
During her senior year, she joined the cast of the national tour of American Idiot, followed by a stint with the tour of Memphis. But being cast as Alex in Flashdance was her biggest thrill.
“I had never felt this strongly,” Mueller said.
“I suddenly felt like all my hard work had paid off. It’s such a big part, and such a tremendous amount of work to get to this point.”
The Alex Owens role is unique, Mueller explained, for the intensity and amount of dancing required – which is not to say she doesn’t put her acting and singing chops to good use in Flashdance as well.
“You get to that last 20 minutes of the show, and there’s a big solo song (Let Go) and then the audition dance,” she said.
“I get to do this eight shows a week, and even when I’m so unbelievably tired, I take a moment and realize how special this is.”
This year marks the 30th anniversary of the release of the original film version of Flashdance, a landmark not unnoticed by the cast and crew, nor by a generationally diverse audience.
“It was kind of panned by the critics, but went on to become almost universally known and loved,” Mueller said.
“It’s sort of an underdog story about an underdog story. It’s so relatable.”