CentralDramaMusicalReviewYouth Theatre

Fame – The Alexandra, Birmingham

Reviewer: Rob Bartley

Book: Jose Fernandez

Music: Steve Margoshes

Lyrics: Jacques Levy

Director: Pollyann Tanner

After being curtailed for three years thanks to Covid, the Stage Experience initiative is back on Birmingham’s Alexandra stage this week. The impressively large group of talented youngsters has chosen the perfect show to symbolise their dreams of finding careers and “living forever” in the performing arts industry with their production of Fame.

Adapted from the 1980 film of the same name, Fame first hit US stages in 1988 and has seen numerous incarnations and reworkings since, which have replaced the film’s notorious grittiness with a lighter approach on the stage. The musical tells the story of a group of teenage students who dream of becoming singers and dancers, who have to be the absolute best of the best in order to make it, while also navigating the troubled waters of adolescence. Young love, drugs, obesity and the general awkwardness of being a teenager are all explored, with each character going through some kind of struggle, along with the teachers trying to keep them on their paths to potential fame.

In truth, Fame never was the strongest of musicals, with the music (Steve Margoshes) and lyrics (Jacques Levy) never really catching light with few standout numbers: audiences expecting a score in line with the iconic title track may feel underwhelmed. However, that shouldn’t take anything away from the achievements of the Stage Experience cast, who do a great job with the material and deliver mostly strong performances. Director and choreographer Pollyann Tanner puts her young cast’s talent front and centre, and the somewhat lacklustre score is delivered with some great vocals, impressive energy and dynamic choreography. The show is modestly staged but it suits the piece, and the large cast fills the space well, particularly in the ensemble numbers.

There are definitely some stars for the future in this cast, which is wonderful to see.  Mason Daw does a terrific job leading the show as Nick, a true triple threat and excelling on all fronts.  Freya Hancox also impresses as Serena, showing off a powerhouse voice which is bound to fill West End auditoria one day.  Laura Byran makes for a feisty Carmen, again delivering some fierce vocals while also making us care for her character’s downward spiral, particularly in the show’s later scenes.  Cree Henson makes a memorable impression as Schlomo, giving off an effortless likeability and great voice despite fewer book scenes and solos.  It’s a strong cast with likeable principals all around, and everyone does well.  American accents are also delivered effectively across the board, so often the death knell of many amateur performances but done really well here.

It’s hugely encouraging to see such young talent on the first steps of their potential careers, and while Fame may not be the best musical in the world, this Stage Experience production is well worth seeing for the talent on that stage, and the rousing finale of the title track is guaranteed to bring a good time.  These performers could be the stars of tomorrow, so get booking today.

Runs Until 27 August 2022

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