Fame was always a little juvenile, and only one song is gonna fly -‘High!’, so it gets repeated a few times during the show. There is not much to the tale other than it follows a bunch of adolescents from them being accepted into PA (the high school of Performing Arts) through to their graduation; which happens to fall on closure of the school’s premises. By the end it is not just the kids that are moving on; the school is too.
During their time at PA, all the students are over eager to achieve fame, and one more than any other, namely Carmen (Jodie Steele). The school teaches academia as well as Acting, Dance and Music in equal measures. The spirited, Carmen is one that simply does not have time for the rules, and edgy, Tyrone (Omari Bernard) despite his artistic talent, struggles with his English skills. Dance teacher, Miss Bell (Hermoine Lynch) wants a chance to shape Tyrone’s raw talent, but Miss Sherman (Landi Oshimnowo) wants him to improve his literacy if he is going to be allowed to stay on. These two teachers’ share in a war of words over the matter, never more than they convey in the song ‘Teachers’ Argument’, and they, like all of the teachers are somewhat sanctimonious in their efforts to ensure that the young people achieve their full potential.
This show runs a little hot and cold. Timing issues made it a slightly longer night than it should have been, and the need for a cast member change in the middle held up proceedings even more. Scenes are fairly short, moving stage pieces allow for a quick change round and lighting tricks introduce new moods. This is a musical, so every scene includes a song or dance, often both. Each scene closes with a character stropping off in frustration, or just stropping off; teachers and pupils alike.
If you are expecting 1980’s big hair and leg warmers this is not the case. Characters from the first film and the old TV show are still here but in different guises, there is still a composer/pianist, and those from the New York Ghetto having something to prove. The music and lyrics are specifically geared for today’s young audience. Some references are of recent happenings, for example, Joe Vegas (Joseph Giacone) mentions Katy Perry and her song, Roar (released last autumn), just prior to his performance of the comedy song from the show ‘Can’t Keep It Down’ (not one for the prudish). Giacone gives a Travolta/Zuko-like performance throughout.
The live band play an array of contemporary music and the electric guitar sound is evident for the best part. I liked the guitar pedal effects. The band plays short compositions of music, quite diverse, from the famous theme song Fame, to the body popping, body pumping beat required for the street dancing. Unfortunately, songs do not stick in the mind particularly, but the performance of Dancin on the Sidewalk by musicians and dancers alike is a real highlight, as is the strong vocal by Oshimnowo in the ballad These Are My Children.
Photography by Hugo Glendinning
Review by Theatre Critic, Debra Hall who attended Press Night of Fame on 2 June 2014 at The Belgrade Theatre, Coventry on behalf of tssreviews