Book: Jose Fernandez
Music: Steve Margoshes
Lyrics: Jacques Levy
Director: Nick Winston
Reviewer: Rebecca Cohen
“You want fame? Well fame costs. And right here is where you start paying in sweat.”
The story and sentiment behind Fame the Musical is indeed an infamous one. It has brought to life the ‘behind the scenes’ of the prestigious New York City High School of Performing Arts in various forms, from a movie to a television series to a musical theatre stage production – the latest of which has leaped into Manchester Palace Theatre courtesy of Selladoor Productions.
The plot follows a group of dance, music and drama students as they work towards their dreams of Broadway and the big screen, from their first audition to their Freshers experiences, to their graduation day. In Act One, it isn’t the storyline that’s the main attraction, it’s superficiality purely acting as a catalyst for the next musical number and character introduction. However, this evolves in Act Two, as you get to know the students and teachers – their motivations, their backgrounds, their romances – on a deeper level.
Comedic elements, such as the Romeo and Juliet reenactment, are combined with more hard-hitting plot twists, including Carmen’s drug battle, giving the act more drive and power than the first. For the theatre geek out there, there are also numerous references to playwrights and quotes from some of the most famous stage and screen productions, giving the musical an added layer of enjoyability.
Ultimately at this production’s core is a desire to showcase talent and hard work for those seeking ‘fame’ – not only within the plot but for the actors on stage as well – and for that the show cannot be faulted. The cast together are an incredibly tight unit, and on an individual level there are some insanely impressive vocals. In terms of ‘wow factor’, it is the girls Molly McGuire (Serena), Stephanie Rojas (Carmen) and Hayley Johnston (Mabel) and boys Jamal Kane Crawford (Tyrone) and Albey Brookes (Joe) who give some of the most memorable performances. In particular, Think of Meryl Streep, In L.A., and Mabel’s Prayer are highlights and it is Mica Paris (Miss Sherman) who gets the audience off their feet after delivering a passionate yet controlled rendition of These Are My Children.
The choreography by Nick Winston is captivating throughout, exploring a range of styles and stretching the performers enough to truly show off their abilities. Each dancer demonstrates real technique and passion for their art form and in unison they are a dream – a pleasant rarity, especially given the more complex movement. It is in the dance element of the production where the headline name, Hollyoaks’ actress and, Dancing on Ice runner-up Jorgie Porter (Iris), shines. Her style is beautiful to watch, especially in the more lyrical/balletic numbers. Stand out routines from the musical include Hard Work and Dancin’ on the Sidewalk.
The set too, while simple, is extremely effective and the lighting rig is used cleverly throughout, especially in the ‘spotlight’ moments. While not the most complex of storylines, it is still a plot that is continuing to prove it will ‘live forever’, and with the talent in this particular adaptation it is one definitely worth digging the legwarmers and crop tops out for.
Runs until 28 July 2018 | Image: Tristram Kenton