Fame – the Musical

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30thAnniversary tour of Fame following a group of students at the New York High School of Performing Arts through 1980 through to 1984. We follow them through their trials and tribulations of love, friendships and overcoming personal challenges to becoming young adults. 

Fame had a huge following in the 80s and therefore expectations are high before we even get to the theatre – I was going to wear my neon leg warmers in support, I’m pleased I didn’t. Looking at the programme, I realised all the character names were different – that doesn’t bode well. How can you not have Leroy or Coco as a character in a performance called ‘Fame’. The reasons become clear.

Setting up of the story was quite good: spot lights on/off on different characters around the set for all the auditions and the teachers voices saying ‘Next’ or other critical comments. Then group auditions as they get to the next round. We see our main characters but at this stage don’t know exactly which ones they are until they are in their home environments around the set praying they made it into the school – this is when we know who we are dealing with. We’re pleased they get through and start school.

The reason why there are different character names is because it was loosely based on the film, which of course was loosely based on the series. In reality this is a modern adaptation of Fame and it didn’t matter if you had never seen or heard anything about it. It was a group of students at drama school with lots of singing, dancing, colourful and entertaining performances. There were several comedy moments that made the audience laugh due to the class clown, thank goodness he was there and he played it well.

Each main character had at least a couple of songs each to sing about their particular story. This is how we learnt about each of them and how we were able to see them grow through these high school years. This did showcase their individual talent offerings. There were a couple of emotional scenes that were portrayed well but no outstanding moments and I was a little underwhelmed. The performers were very enthusiastic and had good energy but there was something lacking in the connection with the audience. There were a couple of love stories which lacked chemistry. There were several comedy moments from the class clown, and thank goodness he was in it, although over rude in some parts, which I didn’t feel was needed. Tyrone was the most natural performer, the others were overacting a bit too much for my liking.

Considering it was based in the early 80s, there wasn’t much reference to the era, if at all. The costumes worked but the soundtrack wasn’t indicative. A missed opportunity. Lots of songs completely new to this musical, in fact there was only one song you knew. It was played with Carmen’s character and had a Latin twist to it and then it was the full track at the end when we were dragged up standing to have a clap and a dance.

A couple of snippets of the film have been incorporated into the musical, but that’s al and nothing from the series. I was expecting at least Hi Fidelity and the full “work hard/sweat” speech. We had ‘Dance is the hardest profession…..music is the hardest profession……acting is the hardest…..’

Several songs went on for too long for no particular reason – maybe to showcase a new talent or show off some more dancing but by this point it wasn’t needed. Some of the performers were playing some instruments, which was nice to see, the rest of the music was provided by a backing track.

Jordie Porter didn’t sing much and although played her character well, it wasn’t outstanding. The only thing outstanding was Mica Paris voice. We know she can sing, a shame it was such a dull and uninspiring song. She did manage to please the Fame fans when she sung the second half of Fame at the end of the show. Why she was relegated to just the second part of the track, she should have sung all of it!

No outstanding performances although Mable probably was the most charismatic of the group. Was that because they were equally as good as each other and no-one was able to shine?

You can see this show and never have seen an episode or the film and you would have a good night out with lots of colourful singing and dancing and some laughs. If you are a hard core fan, your expectations will not be quite met and you need to flexible – they had the concept but not the passion.

This review first appeared on GrapevineLIVE.

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