Director and choreographer: Nick Winston
Conceived and developed by: David de Silva
Music by: Steve Margoshes, Dean Pitchford and Michael Gore
Reviewer: Beverley Haigh
Fame, the hit TV series and iconic motion picture, synonymous with sweatbands and leg warmers and largely responsible for influencing 1980s fashion, celebrates its 30th anniversary with Selladoor Productions’ latest touring version. Three decades later, the journey of talented and hopeful students attending New York’s High School of Performing Arts still holds relevance for an X-factor generation, obsessed with the notion of becoming famous. The only difference being, these 80s originals were prepared to work for it.
You want fame? Well, fame costs. And right here is where you start paying in sweat.
The characters and their particular talents are introduced via audition scenes: Schlomo an accomplished and classical musician; Tyrone, a gifted dyslexic dancer; the wonderfully comedic Mabel, a dancer who is forever battling her weight; Nick who just wants to be taken seriously as an actor; joker Joe; ballerina Iris, who isn’t all she first appears and tragic Carmen who wants to be immortalised and for everyone to ‘remember my name’ (which they do, but not for the right reasons). In reality there are too many characters to establish an affinity with or even really care about in such a short amount of time, however, the diversity allows for various strands of story development but also adds credence to the debate about stage schools accepting too many students.
Although very much an ensemble piece with some slick and effective scenes, the emphasis is on the music rather than the dancing and while all the cast may not all be dancers by profession, (with the exception of Jamal Crawford, who gives an outstandingly athletic performance as Tyrone) all cast members have enough talent to offset this with the inclusion of some exceptional voices. Soul singer Mica Paris brings the house down with her powerful vocals in the role of Miss Sherman, which could have been created especially for her.
Archetypal dancewear costumes ensures that the production is an 80s nostalgia trip without alienating new audiences too young to remember Fame the first time around. Appealing to those who have grown up with ‘The Next Step’ as their reference point, this updated version has brought in Hollyoaks favourite Jorgie Porter in her stage debut, who gives a very credible portrayal of ballerina Iris, showcasing her classical training.
Successfully making the transition from screen to stage, any slight weakness can be attributed to the genre and the era rather the production itself, which encapsulates the sheer essence of what Fame is all about. The plot briefly introduces issues such as race, class, poverty, sexuality, eating disorders, drug abuse and equality but there is no great depth to the piece. Scenes are short, punctuated by songs and mostly an opportunity for each character to discover their romantic opposites, without any real exploration of key themes. The prevailing message is that love and friendship transcend. Essentially, Fame has been created purely for entertainment. The energy of all the performers is what carries the production. Their hard work and dedication has paid off. Fame is an onstage riot of fun and their energy is infectious, creating a musical triumph.
Runs until 13th October 2018 | Image: Contributed