Book: José Fernandez
Music: Steve Margoshes
Lyrics: Jacques Levy
Director: Nick Winston
Reviewer: Maggie Constable
Get those dancing shoes and leg warmers on and be ready for the arrival of Fame The Musical at Milton Keynes Theatre this week on its 30th anniversary tour, no less. Based on the much loved and iconic 80s movie of the same name, the musical has had seven runs in London’s West End as well as incredible global success. Everyone knows the award-winning title song and will not be able to resist singing along.
The story follows the youngsters who are training at the New York High School for Performing Arts (P.A.) right from the moment they audition to the point of graduation. We learn of their struggle to succeed with all its ups and downs, their friendships and romantic attachments and their everyday lives over a period of 4 years. The show deals with all that the students face daily, tackling issues such as individuality, self-belief, sexual orientation, drive, drug use and various forms of discrimination. Plenty for one show and still very relevant now. The students begin as young ingenues desperate to achieve fame and end up as starlets.
The entire cast is talented and energetic, several members taking on singing, dancing, acting and playing instruments. In the first half of the show, one senses opening night jitters and a couple of technical hitches do not help. However, the second part of the show, by contrast, is dazzling and pacey.
Mica Paris takes on the role of Miss Sherman, bringing to it some gravitas. A creditable performance in terms of her acting but her singing, especially of These Are My Children, sends shivers down the spine.
Jorgie Porter as Iris Kelly is quietly understated but what a sensitive and graceful ballet dancer she makes, with lyrical and fluid movements. Keith Jack brings us Nick and is utterly convincing in his portrayal of the ambitious and well-read wannabe actor. His rapport with Serena, played with total stage presence by Molly McGuire, is very convincing. Her voice is extremely powerful as well as melodic. Jamal Kane Crawford’s dancing as Tyrone is not only amazingly athletic but also sensitive. Yet it is Stephanie Rojas as Carmen who steals the show, both with her acting and her strong vocals. Her story holds it all together and her relationship with Simon Anthony’s loyal Schlomo is tender and real. Anthony gives us a very likeable and easy character, which works because he does not overdo it.
Morgan Large’s set design is simple and very effective with its backdrop of photos from yearbooks. It perfectly creates the feeling of the rundown building that is P.A with its cold corridors, old-style classrooms and rehearsal ’studios’ – such as they are. Props slide effortlessly across the stage. Nick Winston’s sharp and lively choreography, always well executed, brings out the best in all the dancers.
Altogether an engaging and entertaining show which may not ‘live forever’ but will certainly lift up the souls of many an audience as it tours.
Runs Until 29 June 2019 and on tour | Image: Tristram Kenton