Fame the Musical – Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton

Book: Jose Fernandez

Lyrics: Jacques Levy

Music: Steve Margoshes

Director: Nick Winston

Reviewer: Clare White

Based on the 1980s cult coming-of-age film, Fame The Musical follows the lives of a diverse group of students from a prestigious performing arts school in New York, desperate to prove they have what it takes to become superstars. Far from a light-hearted story about fame-hungry teens and leg warmers, it deals with both the highs and lows of the group, including some darker issues of prejudice, sexuality and addiction, while juggling the school’s demanding expectations and a desperation to see their name in lights.

A talented cast of dancers, singers and musicians pour their heart and soul into this 30th anniversary tour, convincingly delivering the energy and determination of ‘the kids from Fame’.  However, they are let down by a largely unmemorable score (aside from the title song Fame), some toe-curling lyrics (I’m alive and I will survive, Show the world that I can take it…’ etc) and a weak book which gives little depth to the characters. Feisty Latino Carmen has a chip on her shoulder but we never find out why, Tyrone has dyslexia which is miraculously cured off stage and the students eventually graduate, but we never actually learn if they become stars. It’s not helped by the somewhat messy collection of individual narratives which are only loosely linked and struggle for an obvious conclusion.

It’s not all bad. As mentioned, the cast is a positive fizz of energy from the off and Nick Winston’s energetic choreography adds power and pace.

Former Hollyoaks star Jorgie Porter gives a stunning dance performance as Iris, her classical elegance a powerful contrast with the athletic streetstyle of Jamal Kane Crawford, who plays love interest Tyrone. Molly McGuire delivers some welcome comedic relief as lovelorn thespian Serena and Any Dream Will Do star Keith Jack does a sound vocal turn as Nick, the object of her affection. There are also strong vocal performances from Stephanie Rojas as ill-fated Carmen and Josie Benson as Miss Sherman in her emotional solo These Are My Children.

A simple wall lit up with American-style yearbook photos and a split level staircase create the backdrop to which various stage props – school lockers, instruments and desks are swiftly wheeled in and out by the cast to alter the setting.

Fame The Musical doesn’t light up the sky like a flame, but there is a warm glow thanks to the cast who do a decent job with what they are given. The lively 80s theme song Fame (I’m Gonna Live Forever) is saved for the finale and thankfully does end things on a high.

Runs until 23 November 2019 and on tour                               Image: Tristram Kenton

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The Central team is under the editorship of Selwyn Knight. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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