Tweetingit: 4* Dust off those leggings and crop tops, it’s time to sing and dance the night away in this brilliantly staged piece of 80s popular culture.
I can catch the moon in my hands don’t you know who I am…remember my name..fame!..I wanna live forever; I want to learn how to fly. I always found those lines vaguely psychedelic with more than a passing nod to some dodgy cigarettes. But of course it’s really about the wholesome world of stage school; a world that might have been inhabited by Simon Cowell in a previous life. The narrative falls on the New York High School For Performing Arts in the early 80s.
It is the latest incarnation of a story that began life as a highly acclaimed film directed by Alan Parker. It spawned the hugely successful but inferior TV spin-off; and then the Kids from Fame, a thankfully short lived recording act. Now, the musical complete with original songs is beginning to mature in this excellent production at the Peacock Theatre.
The set is brilliantly simple with a collage of high school photographs lining the stage. A slick lighting system cleverly frames shots; while a gantry allows the narrative to develop on two levels. All the familiar characters are featured; Carmen (Stephanie Rojas) talented street kid from the hood; Iris (Jorgie Porter), little miss perfect who just wants to be loved; Tyrone (Jamal Crawford), a dancer with magic feet but no head for the classroom; and Miss Sherman (Mica Paris); ball breaking principal with a heart of gold. Act I follows the film’s basic narrative with typical exhortation; you want fame, well here’s where you start paying…in sweat! Smooth transitions introduce characters with concurrent storylines; and the three elements of performance begin to emerge: song, dance and drama.
Having seen the show twice previously I was always struck by the staging more than the songs, which were pleasant but instantly forgettable. Now they naturally stand out as genuine showstoppers. Let’s play a love scene is a gorgeous ballad beautifully sung by Molly McGuire; while Hard work and Dancin’ on the sidewalk are storming numbers maintaining the pace. It may be familiarity, but I sense the songs have developed a much stronger identity, and sit more comfortably with the iconic title song.
The cast were magnificent, many doubtless drawing on their own recent experience of stage school. It was great to see Mica Paris on stage again, a true diva of British pop music. Although she did sound tired in Act I; perhaps not surprising at the end of a gruelling national tour. Thankfully, she found her voice in Act II with the rousing These are my children. A modified version of Fame has found its way onto our TV screens, but nothing can beat a realistic portrayal of how talent is nurtured in the real world. For all its gloss, Fame still manages to tell an effecting story of children growing into adults.
Conceived and Developed by: David De Silva
Book: Jose Fernandez
Lyrics: Jaques Levy
Music: Steve Margoshes
Director/Choreographer: Nick Winston
Musical Director: Tim Whiting
Producer: Selladoor Productions
Booking Until: 19 October 2019