Jillian Mueller grew up watching Flashdance, a Reagan-era bootstrap fantasy about a disadvantaged young woman who works at a steel mill by day, moonlights as a go-go dancer, and dreams of becoming a ballerina while falling in love with her boss.
"I was really young when I first saw it," Mueller says of the film that put leg warmers on the map. "Like 7 maybe. It was one of those iconic movies about dance, and I was really drawn to it. It helped shape me into wanting to be a performer.
"Jennifer Beals didn't do any of the dancing," Mueller adds, explaining one of the biggest differences between the original film and the new stage adaptation that's currently touring in anticipation of a Broadway opening. "With this, I have to do all the singing and dancing. And there is way more dancing than there is in the movie. I think that's one of the things people really notice. We have these prima ballerinas and these hip-hop dancer guys. The cast is just stupid talented."
Mueller says she feels a "personal connection" to Alex Owens and is lucky to be playing a character whose passion and independence she understands so well. But there is at least one way in which Mueller is very different from this "steel-town girl on a Saturday night."
"I've never had to work a day job yet," she says. "I did life differently than most people do, I think. I didn't go to a normal public high school. I got a Broadway show so I left school, did all the work online, and graduated in three years. I went on my first national tour when I was a senior in high school. So I've never had to have any ridiculous jobs to make money to do what I want to do."
Flashdance — The Musical at The Orpheum September 19th-25th. orpheum-memphis.com