REVIEW: FAME THE MUSICAL (Sunderland Empire) ★★★
Fame, for me, evokes a wealth of nostalgia. I watched the TV show in the 80’s and the the 1980 Alan Parker film (which introduced me to the Rocky Horror Picture Show). I have fond memories of sleepovers with my best friend Melanie and listening to her sister Dawn singing the songs of the Kids from Fame over and over again until she was word perfect. So I arrived at the Sunderland Empire, expecting to see Doris, Leeroy, Coco, Danny and Bruno. To hear them singing Starmaker, Hi-fidelity and Desdemona as well as the title track of Fame itself.
Selladoors version of Fame, directed and choreographed by Nick Winston, starts in 1980 and follows the students of PA, from the auditions to their 4 years of study up to graduation. With hundreds going through the audition process and only 97 being accepted these are the best of the best.
Miss Sherman (Mica Paris) is in charge of the Academic side of life at PA and she is adamant that the students must pass English and Maths as these are equally, if not more, important than their performing majors. Miss Bell (Katie Warsop) teaches the dancers including Tyrone (Jamal Crawford) who dances like a dream but can’t read and beautiful ballerina Iris (Jorgie Porter). Mabel (Hayley Johnston) who needs to lose weight but eats everything in front of her and changes to acting. Mr Scheinkopf (Duncan Smith) is the music teacher and Mr Myers (Cameron Johnson) who teaches acting.
Whilst the students have stars in their eyes, Carmen (Stephanie Rojas) ends up in the seedier side of life, after an Agent takes her to California to make her a star, introducing her to drink and drugs and she ends up stripping to make ends meet to fuel her addiction. Her relationship with Schlomo (Simon Anthony), helping him to write lyrics to the tunes he composes, starts out so beautifully and after her death from an overdose his tribute to her is an emotional one. The other faltering relationship is that of Serena (Molly McGuire) who adores Nick (Keith Jack) but thinks he’s gay, however during Romeo and Juliet they fall in love.
The rest of the ensemble Joe (Albey Brookes), Goody (Alexander Zane), Lambchops (Louisa Beadel) play musical instruments on stage, along with the off stage band Tim Whiting, Dave Keech, Manolo Polidario, Mike Nichols and Brady Mould
For me this was a perfectly acceptable performance, no stand out moments just a perfect ensemble piece. But maybe the nostalgia clouded my judgement. I was so looking forward to the Fame of my youth that this show was, however, lacking something for me. And I found the toy cars in the finale quite juvenile.
Fame is touring the UK for the rest of 2019 with a stint in the West End from September.
Reviewed by Susan Lindsay
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