Developed by David De Silva, the man behind the production of the well known original film and television series, Fame the Musical has been seen all over the world and during it’s most recent UK Stop at the Peacock Theatre in London, it was thankfully recorded. In the return of the Shows must go online scheme, bringing filmed and archived productions to the masses during the continuing theatre shutdown, Fame was streamed on YouTube over the weekend and enjoyed by many on this platform.
I am going to hold my hand up here and admit that I have never actually seen the film, or the television series (shocking, I know) but I had a general idea of what it was all about. Set in a performing arts school in New York, Fame focusses on the stories of eight students during their time at the school and the struggles that they place to not only find success in their world of performing arts but success in their lives outside of all of that as well. The film is referenced on a number of occasion, but thankfully for me the plot doesn’t rely heavily on the success of that film, and works pretty well as a stand alone piece of art.
You can’t really say that the cast is led by anybody, as this is a production that truly comes across as an ensemble piece and in a world of star billing and big names, that’s rather nice to see. It does have it’s perhaps better known names in Jorgie Porter as devoted dancer Iris, Mica Paris as teacher Miss Sherman and Keith Jack as the determined young actor Nick, but each fit into this ensemble that all give their all to an extremely high energy dance heavy show. Porter, a talented dancer, impresses as Iris, not only showing off her dance ability but a great emotional range in her relationship with Tyrone (Jamal Crawford) and friendship with fellow dancer Mabel (Hayley Johnson). Crawford and Johnson are delightful as Tyrone and Mabel, both competing with their own issues be that reading or a tendency to overeat and Johnson shows off her comedy skills in ‘Mabel’s Prayer’, with Crawford truly getting a moment to shine in ‘Dancin’ on the Sidewalk’.
Keith Jack brings a great depth to the character of Nick, a young actor who wants nothing more than to truly learn the trade and go into the industry able to command the stage. He throws himself into his studies, quoting Shakespeare in the corridors and telling his classmates of his wishes to create magic on the stage. His act one number ‘I want to make magic’ is a highlight, along with the act two reprise of ‘Let’s Play A Love Scene’ alongside Molly McGuire as Serena. McQuire impresses greatly as the ambitious young actress, devoted to her lessons but distracted by her feelings for Nick. Her solo ‘Think of Meryl Streep’ is a stand out moment. Simon Anthony and Stephanie Rojas make a lovely pair as Schlomo and Carman, with their little romance that I only wish we got to see more of. Carman’s story, whilst touching and an important on to tell, was a little predictable with me having the feeling that something was going to happen as soon as the character was introduced.
I didn’t actually look at the cast list before beginning to watch this filmed production, but was very quick to spot Albey Brookes in the opening number. Brookes is a performer who I have been fortunate enough to see on a number of occasions in many productions including ‘Dirty Dancing’, ‘Aladdin’, ‘Singing in the Rain’ and ‘Grease’, and it was amazing to see him in the role of comedian trouble making Joe. Constantly buzzing with energy and the glee at telling dirty jokes throughout, his act one number ‘Can’t Keep It Down’ proved to be a crowd pleaser. You can’t deny the brilliance of Mica Paris’ performance of ‘These Are My Children’ but I have to admit that in her other musical moments, such as her duet with Louisa Beadel as Miss Bell, I did find her a little bit shouty and over the top. I also want to take a moment to say well done to the ensemble cast, with a number also playing instruments throughout, including Tom Mussell on the saxophone.
In terms of the story itself, it was a little bit predictable at times. You could see some of the plot points a mile off, and whilst this didn’t distract from being able to enjoy the production, it did leave some points perhaps falling a little flat. Nevertheless, Fame provides a couple of hours of escapism with some incredible dance numbers throughout performed flawlessly by its talented cast. It’s high energy and funny with some truly meaningful moments of friendship, love and sticking together through hard times. If you missed the stream this weekend, don’t worry, you can watch this production of Fame the Musical on BroadwayHD with a week’s free trail.