Touring – reviewed at New Victoria Theatre, Woking
Fame is the original high school musical drama. The story about a group of wannabe New York performers became an instant success with audiences after the 1980 film, and various incarnations including TV series and musical performances were spawned. Fame the Musical, developed by David De Silva, is currently touring again to celebrate its 30th anniversary before a stint in the West End next year.
Fame the Musical follows the lives and struggles of students attending the New York High School of Performing Arts. It is a real-life, non-sugar-coated version of being a young adult and facing issues, including substance abuse, sexuality and self-worth.
From the opening number to the very last moment of toe-tapping brilliance, Nick Winston’s production screams energy and vibrancy. The entire show is a well choreographed, lively machine that, although being set in the 80s, feels fresh, relevant and energetic.
The energy comes from the outstanding young cast which delivers every moment with enthusiasm and precision. Molly McGuire is loveable and quirky as she falls in love with Nick (Keith Jack) the TV actor, wanting to move to more serious roles. Both performers provide beautiful vocals, especially during ‘Let’s Play a Love Scene’ in which Molly shines. The pair complement each other wonderfully and present a sweet romantic arc.
Hayley Johnston brings humour and heart to the show, with bubbly Mabel earning laughs throughout and showing off her killer, powerful vocals in ‘Mabel’s Prayer’.
Jorgie Porter shows off her well-honed dance skills as Iris who falls for Tyrone (Jamal Crawford), an equally exquisite dancer who gave a standout performance with Dancing on the Sidewalk. Tyrone also has a storyline with teacher Miss Sherman (Mica Paris) as she realises he is illiterate and tries to inspire him to work on himself. The pair are realistically at odds with one another as their heightened tensions come to a boil with Mica Paris’ effortlessly stunning rendition of These Are My Children.
Mention must also go to the fantastic actor-musicians who are present on stage throughout and bring a natural, realistic feel to the show and transport us to a frenetic performing arts school- Alexander Zane is a standout of the group.
The real star of the show is undoubtedly, Stephanie Rojas who gives a fiery performance as Carmen, the Latina who longs for fame. Stephanie is everything Carmen should be with her transition from a larger than life girl in There She Goes/Fame, to a broken woman in the devastating In LA supplying a supremely moving storyline. Stellar vocals and superb acting make Stephanie’s performance a must see and should be required viewing for any budding performers.
On top of the impressive performances, Prema Mehta’s lighting is extremely atmospheric from the opening scene which dazzles the audience to attention and sets the tone for an exhilarating show. Particularly clever is the use of light tones, for example in Carmen’s emotional climax during act 2, she is bathed in cool, stark light whilst her counterpart Schlomo (played touchingly by Simon Anthony) is lit in a warm tone. These subtle details are part of what makes this is production of Fame superior.
Whilst there are a number of stereotypes and other than a couple of the main characters, not much character development, this show is raw and pure storytelling, told by a supremely talented cast. Helped by Morgan Large’s set, the focus of this production is purely on no gimmick talent, so, if you want to see skilled performers and hear highly catchy songs then Nick Winston’s production of Fame is the show for you- don’t miss it!
Fame runs at the New Victoria Theatre until October 5th before continuing it’s tour and heading to the Peacock Theatre next year.
photo credit: Tristram Kenton