Peacock Theatre, London – until 19 October 2019
Back in the West End after 12 years, Fame makes a triumphant return with Nick Winston’s production. This 30th anniversary edition has been touring since 2018 but is having a prolonged five-week stop at the Peacock Theatre. Featuring the classic songs such as ‘There She Goes’, ‘Fame’ and ‘Bring on Tomorrow’, those who grew up with the musical will be taken back to their youth. However, whilst many original aspects are still part of the show, the stage version is less leg warmers and dancing on cars, and more grit, hard work and struggle.
Despite being set in the 80s, most aspects feel fresh, relevant and grounded in truth. Winston’s choreography helps the entire production fizzle and buzz like a well oiled New York subway, and the young cast perform each second with conviction and power.
As Iris, Jorgie Porter gives a great showcase of her sleek dance skills and has a great chemistry with love interest Tyrone (Jamal Crawford) who gives an equally strong dance performance and gains rapturous applause after his uber-octane performance of ‘Dancing on the Sidewalk’. In the storyline with his teacher Miss Sherman (Mica Paris) Crawford gives a truthful performance as he struggles to read but doesn’t want to appear stupid or weak. The battle of wills between the pair is exciting to watch and really comes to a head with Paris’ vocally impeccable rendition of ‘These Are My Children’. As the quirky actress Serena, Molly McGuire is warm and instantly likeable.
Her relationship with Nick (Keith Jack), a TV actor, wanting to break into the more serious world of acting, is sweet and the pair complement each other well. With Jacques Levy and Steve Margoshes’ music and lyrics, there are some lovely moments, especially ‘Let’s Play a Love Scene’.
The ensemble are tight from start to finish, performing the sharp choreography extremely well and providing moments of interest away from the main action throughout. Serina Matthews and Tom Mussell particularly catch the eye throughout. This cast is also comprised of various quadruple-threats.
The host of amazing actor-musos who are present on stage throughout, really transport us to a performing arts school, and help keep up the frenzied energy of working on your craft. Louisa Beadel is feisty as Lambchops and gives a brief but beautiful vocal performance in the closing number; Alexander Zane is light relief and a wonderful energy on stage. Simon Anthony is outstanding in his instrumental, vocal, acting and dance skills.
Giving a very heartfelt and highly energetic performance, he is a stand out performer and works wonderfully with his love interest, Carmen. As Carmen, it’s Stephanie Rojas who is really the crown jewel of this production. Opening with a fiery, sassy performance, her decline and struggle is incredibly moving to watch. Rojas’ sublime vocals, gritty acting and sharp movement really should put her Name in Lights across the West End. In a show which sometimes lacks character development, Rojas makes Carmen a truly 3D character and gives the performance all audience members will remember. Prema Mehta’s subtle but atmospheric lighting does a fantastic jobs of quite literally highlighting the crucial moments and moods of the piece. Perhaps most striking is the contrast between Carmen’s opening number and closing number. In There She Goes/Fame there is a vibrancy which bathes the stage, whilst In LA is stark and simplistic. Morgan Large’s set of yearbook photos, lockers and desks keeps the school vibes alive and allows most of the focus to be on the performers. For a no gimmick show about the tenacity needed to succeed, Fame is a wonderful way to spend an evening and will certainly leave you dancing along the road (or wishing you had the skill to dance along the road)! Fame runs at the Peacock Theatre until 19th October 2019 before continuing its tour. photo credit: Alessia Chinazzo