With productions like this, Vicky Smith wouldn’t be surprised if Fame indeed lives forever
The sign of a really good show? A distinctly teary eye at the end. And, leaving the Palace after the final triumphant closing song, I could see mine weren’t the only peepers welling up.
Living up to one of the cult films of the eighties is no easy feat but, while some of Fame’s countless adaptations haven’t been so successful, Fame the Musical is more than a match for the $21.2 million blockbuster. Since launching in 1988, the theatre production has had seven West End runs and been performed across the globe.
Conceived by David de Silva, Fame follows the trials and tribulations of students at the New York High School for the Performing Art (the PA) - a pioneering institute that now lives on in the equally iconic Fiorello H LaGuardia - and has become renowned for its honest portrayal of the issues faced by young people, not to mention the darker underbelly of fame.
Its 30th anniversary tour, which launched in Manchester this month, is a credit to cast and creative - both of whom I’d give six stars out of five were that a possibility. ‘You want fame? Well, fame costs. And right here is where you start paying in sweat’. This, the dramatic opening line, sets the bar high for what turns out to be amongst the best musicals I’ve seen.
After a silhouetted roll call of auditions, the anxious opening of acceptance letters and the students’ first day, we soon become acquainted with each…as do they with each other, prompting the usual adolescent potion of lust and insecurity: from awkward Serena (Molly McGuire) and her hankering for conscientious Nick (Keith Jack) - desperate to move on from his childhood stint in a peanut ad - to extrovert Joe (Albey Brookes) and his unwavering sex drive.
Then there’s Iris (Jorgie Porter), who puts on a persona to fit in; Schlomo (Simon Anthony), who hails from a family of musical geniuses and never feels good enough; the hilarious Mabel (Hayley Johnston), whose comical dieting troubles belie the dangerous ideals of the dance world; and tragic Carmen (Stephanie Rojas), whose Hollywood dreams turn sour. Tyrone (Jamal Kane Crawford), meanwhile, highlights issues of race, class and academic angst; he’s later diagnosed as dyslexic by Miss Sherman (Mica Paris), whose solo performance deservedly received a standing ovation.
As did the show as a whole, and rightly so: not only does it have all the ingredients of a successful story (tragedy, comedy, warmth), it has hits like I’m Gonna Live Forever and a melange of stunning choreography to boot, from tango to hip-hop and ballet. Needless to say, singing, dancing and acting are all spot on too - bravo.
With productions like this, I wouldn’t be surprise if Fame indeed lives forever.
Fame runs at The Palace until Saturday 28 July, with a 2pm Saturday matinee