The 30th Anniversary tour of Fame follows a group of students at the New York High School of Performing Arts through 1980 through to 1984. We follow them through their trials and tribulations of love, friendships and overcoming personal challenges to becoming young adults.
Fame had a huge following in the 80’s and therefore expectations are high before we even get to the theatre – I was going to wear my neon leg warmers in support. Looking at the programme, I noticed all the character names were different – that doesn’t bode well. How can you not have Leroy or Coco as a character in a performance called ‘Fame’? The reasons become clear, as it was only loosely based on the film, which of course was loosely based on the series. In reality this is a modern adaptation of Fame, and it didn’t matter if you had never seen or heard anything about it. It was a group of students at drama school with lots of singing, dancing, colourful and entertaining performances.
Setting up of the story was quite good: spotlights on different characters around the set for all the auditions and the teachers voices saying ‘Next’ or other critical comments, then group auditions as they get to the next round. We see our main characters but at this stage don’t know exactly which ones they are until they are in their home environments around the set praying they made it into the school – this is when we know who we are dealing with.
Each main character had at least a couple of songs each to sing about their particular story. This is how we learnt about each of them and how we were able to see them grow through these high school years. This did showcase their individual talent offerings. There were a couple of emotional scenes that were portrayed well, but no outstanding moments and I was a little underwhelmed.
The performers were very enthusiastic and had great energy, but there was something lacking in the connection with the audience. There were several comedy moments from the class clown Joe, as played by Albey Brookes, and thank goodness he was in it because although over-rude in some parts he gave light-relief. Jamal Kane Crawford as Tyrone was the most natural performer, and Hayley Johnston as Mable was probably the most charismatic of the characters. Jorgie Porter didn’t sing much but played her character well, though Mica Paris’ voice was outstanding. We know she can sing, and I wish we could have heard more.
Considering it was based in the early 80’s, there wasn’t much reference to the era, if at all. The costumes worked but the soundtrack wasn’t indicative; a missed opportunity. Lots of songs are completely new to this musical, in fact there was only one song you knew, and I’m sure you can guess it. I felt several songs went on for too long for no particular reason – maybe to showcase a new talent or show off some more dancing but by this point it wasn’t needed. Some of the performers were playing some instruments, which was nice to see, the rest of the music was provided by a backing track.
Whether you know it already or not, I think you can accept it for what it is and have a good night out with lots of colourful singing, dancing and some laughs.
Fame the Musical runs at the Ipswich Regent until Saturday 3rd November, tickets available from ipswichregent.gov.uk. It then continues on a UK tour and full details can can be found at fameuktour.co.uk.