REVIEW: FAME (Bridewell Theatre) ★★★★

Fame Bridewell TheatreAs well as the 1980 multi award-winning motion picture, Fame, has been performed in many theatres worldwide and has been made into a popular television series. This production of Fame: The Musical, is up there with the best.

A group of young people, from vastly different backgrounds, have just been accepted for a five year course at the prestigious New York High School of Performing Arts. They soon find out that it is not all just singing, dancing and fun. It entails a lot of hard work, frustration and occasional disappointment.

The story looks at a number of students, their private and academic lives and their relationships. This is not just a bunch of musical pieces joined together by a flimsy story. There is love and drama, joy and sadness all played out with great feeling. They take on subjects such as homosexual love, prostitution, drug addiction and young death. They do not skirt around the issues but confront them head on. Fame is a remarkably inspirational show.

During the spectacular dance routines, the cast performed so close to the audience that I was nearly tempted to join. Not an everyday occurrence even for one of West End Wilma’s extrovert team of reviewers, but very pleasant. Overall the cast were virtually all young, attractive and talented and by their physical closeness made the whole audience feel pleasantly involved.

However, not everything was perfect. One of the leading cast members who played Tyrone, one of the principal male leads, seemed perhaps a little too old for his high school role, but boy, can he dance. Also some of the people playing instruments on stage were a bit out of tune. This did not apply to the orchestra, of course, but just the music students. Under the circumstances and all things considered, these are eminently forgivable minor faults and actually added to the heart and charm of the performance.

The show, despite the tiny criticisms that I have just pointed out, was really good. The ensemble singing was excellent, well up to West End standards and many of the cast were brilliant. The large scale dance numbers were excellently choreographed and beautifully performed.

Yvette Shiel who played the delectable Carmen, sang, danced and acted magnificently . She held the stage in the palm of her hand. She was, in turn, funny, feisty, dramatic and sad. What a star in the making.

Laura Ellis (Serena) has a beautiful voice and wonderful stage presence. She has nearly ten years of experience in musicals throughout Britain.

Lovely Samantha Miller (Iris) dances like a young prima ballerina, breathtaking. She is a classically trained dancer from California. This is her Centre Stage debut.

The remaining members of the cast and creative team are no less talented, and they performed very well, very dynamically. There were no real weaknesses in the team and I apologise to those that I have not mentioned individually by name, but you are all so darned good.

Reviewed by Graham Archer