Fame began life as a film in 1980, and has since spawned a spin-off TV series, sequels of various kinds, a modern big screen remake, and a stage musical. The most recent production of the show has been touring the UK and has now extended its stay in London, moving from the Peacock Theatre to Troubadour Wembley Park to round off the tour.
It’s the early 80s, and a host of teenagers have auditioned to get into New York City’s High School of Performing Arts (known as PA) – all they can do now is hope that they were part of the elite group chosen to attend. PA allows arts-focused students to work on their chosen arts, on the proviso that they keep up a set standard in their academic studies; for some – like Tyrone – this is a tall order. Others, like Carmen Diaz, just see the school as a way to get fame quickly, ignoring the amount of hard work that needs to be put in at the beginning and not being disciplined enough to take the process seriously. All of the students face personal challenges, and not all of them will make it through to graduation…
I don’t know if it’s just me, but at the moment there seems to be a proliferation of actors & performers (and nowhere near enough roles to go around); increasing numbers of stage schools churn out actor after actor, dancer after dancer, but to no avail for many. That’s what really interests me about Fame – it may lionise artists and go a bit over the top at times, but it’s a great reminder of the effort and time someone has to put in to stand a chance of fulfilling their dreams in the arts. Just because you can hold a tune or have good rhythm doesn’t automatically set you on a course for stardom, only someone who can combine talent with perseverance and energy will make it – and even then they’ll need a but of luck along the way.
The show itself has a decent balance of songs that advance the plot (moving through scenes) and get inside a character’s head – whether for comedic (Can’t Keep It Down) or emotional (These Are My Children) effect. There are perhaps a few too many, for me, but it is good to see that not every single scene has to be punctuated with a musical number. Though by having so many songs it means there is ample opportunity to show off lots of terrific choreography; director Nick Winston has provided plenty of memorable routines, utilising a variety of styles to great effect. From Tyrone’s preferred hip-hop/street dance, to classical ballet, as well as an enthralling flamenco section during the Junior Festival. Wonderfully conceived and immaculately performed.
Molly McGuire is brilliantly goofy as Serena, and Louisa Beadel is full of attitude as energetic drummer Lambchops. Jamal Kane Crawford and Kira Malou make a great partnership as Tyrone and Iris, and are stunning dancers to watch. Other standout performances come from Eddie Myles covering the role of Joe with gusto, and Georgia Tapp as fame-obsessed Carmen.
My verdict? An energetic production that serves as a good reminder that you can’t anywhere without hard work – the choreography is superb.
Fame the Musical runs at Troubadour Wembley Park Theatre until 26 January 2020. Tickets are available online or from the box office.