Book: Jose Fernandez
Lyrics: Jaques Levy
Director: Nick Winston
Reviewer: Dominic Corr
Fame uncompromisingly attempts to look at not just the romantic humour associated with talent scouting and arts educations, but the seedy underneath too. Originally the monstrously successful 1980 movie, Fame evolved into a TV series, untold spin-offs and finally, a stage show. For its 30th anniversary, the touring cast of Fame seeks to pay this cost just like their predecessors “in sweat”.
What Fame’s narrative has going for it, is what it fails to capitalise on, the rotten truth behind an Arts education. The lack of accessibility for persons of lower income or colour, drug abuse in the pursuit of the limelight and even just the unemployment risks. Act one feels almost entirely filler, serving merely to introduce characters, vague storylines and cheap laughs.
Act two finds its comedic footing a little firmer, the first act having some vast awkward silences from the audience, particularly with the antics of Albey Brookes as a living embodiment of Pepe Le Pew. His crotch driven desires grow tiresome quickly, thankfully for act two they are subtler, with a tighter physical performance. The heart cries for Hayley Johnston however, who turns in a solid physical performance as Mabel – though if we could drop the fat dancer jokes – that would be grand.
Few excel in their roles, though none are really a flop. Stephanie Rojas’s vocals are excellent. The cast is colourful yet too plentiful. The focus is divided between too many relationships, complications or pointless ends. The script requires a great deal of trimming, and while the moments of comic relief are needed – not everyone needs a full arc, especially if said arc doesn’t develop the character.
Standing head and shoulders above her fellow cast members is Mica Paris as Miss Sherman, These Are My Children is a testament to her vocals, pulling out note after note with grace. If Fame is indeed to teach these kids some tricks of the trade, they have no finer teacher than Paris.
Jorgie Porter, familiar for her role in Channel 4 soap opera Hollyoaks, returns to her ballet roots. Her role as Iris, a young talent guising herself as a highborn student is a delightful surprise. Alongside Jamal Kane Crawford, the two share a believable chemistry. Crawford’s physical performance, along with his lyrical scenes with Paris are impassioned.
Headshots frame the stage in a fitting commentary on the nature of casting. Faces we will never see or forget, some we don’t recognise but one or two we can. New York cabs, a high-rise block of apartments all seen from above make for a more creative opening than what one anticipates with a touring production.
Aiming to fly high, Fame certainly makes it off the ground. Overall though, it’s beginning to feel outdated, particularly in the humour and the writing. With the odd powerhouse performance Fame is enjoyable, taking small chances but remains a safe production for all.
Runs until 27 October 2018 | Image: Tristram Kenton