For some in the audience, if you sing ‘Fame’ memories of the ultimate 80s fashion accessory – legwarmers – together with the phrase ‘You want fame? Well fame costs etc etc’, the memories comes flooding back.
Fame was a global phenomenon for almost a decade and can be blamed for shows such as Glee, High School Musical and umpteen all-singing and dancing school-based dramas on Nickelodeon.
However, apart from featuring the worldwide hit theme tune and returning to the original setting of the New York School for the Performing Arts (now called ‘PA’), Bill Kenwright’s new touring production of Fame The Musical does not feature any of the original characters or music.
Fame The Musical is set in 2014 New York and follows an ensemble of aspiring dancers, actors and musicians as they try to make their name in the entertainment industry and achieve their coveted fame. The young cast are enthusiastic and versatile dancers, singing is overall spot on but acting patchy. The main problem is, apart from one or two numbers, the songs themselves are forgettable and characters two dimensional; the cast have to work hard with material which could be better.
It is right the Fame concept is re-imagined for a new audience but this audience is now fed an almost continuous diet of ‘when will I be famous’ reality shows and so the ground-breaking grit of Alan Parker’s 1980 Oscar-winning film and the charming characters of the subsequent TV series are missing. This show really needs to have something else to make it stand out.
That said, there are some outstanding performances. Jodie Steele as Carmen combines bravado and broken dreams effectively, Alex Thomas is impressive as Tyrone, performing a series of highly dangerous looking splits and high kicks. For the teachers it is stereotypical stuff although Landi Oshinowo as Miss Sherman rises above with her rich, gospel sound. The dancing and live band are what make this show though. This 2014 update features fusions of hip hop, contemporary and ballet, the flamenco style piece which opens the second act is particularly enjoyable.
A basic set means the focus is on what this show is all about: music, singing and dancing, with the cast occasionally wheeling around what appear to be two giant Lego constructions to represent the different rooms of the PA.
If you can close your ears to the clichéd dialogue and rather formulaic ‘plot’ but enjoy watching talented dancers in action then this is for you.
Fame the Musical is at De Montfort Hall, Leicester until 12 April www.demontforthall.co.uk