Fame The Musical - Milton Keynes Theatre (atgtickets.com)
By Quentin Fox

It’s 30 years since Fame The Musical made its debut on
Broadway and this anniversary production has already had thousands of people
shaking the moths out of their legwarmers.


The stage show is based on Alan Parker’s immortal film and
follows the lives and loves, the triumphs and disasters of a cohort of students
at New York’s High School For The Performing Arts.


All are brilliant in their fields, but will talent be
enough to gain the fame they all desire? For this is not a simple feelgood tale
– we see the characters sweat and sometimes fail to become the people they
could have been. In line with Parker’s vision it’s very much an issues-based
yarn that, though still set in the early 1980s, in many ways chimes in with today’s
societal concerns: identity, drug abuse, intimacy and sexuality among many.
 As the catchline for the movie stated: ‘If they’ve really
got what it takes, it’s going to take everything they’ve got.’


Fame The Musical has seen seven West End runs since its
inception, so it has clearly found a place in the hearts of theatregoers. This
time round Nick Winston, the director and choreographer, has  opened up the show with some new songs and has
cranked up the dance numbers to new heights of energy and skill.


He’s helped in his endeavour by Morgan Large’s set, which
is composed of head-and-shoulders shots of alumni , at once bringing to mind
both a high-school yearbook and casting bibles such as Spotlight, used by
directors to select actors for parts.
Also of immense value are the
contributions of actors in the cast who have already found fame: Mica Paris is outstanding as Miss Sherman, the school
principal, whose rendition
of ‘These Are My Children’ exudes heartache and soul; former Hollyoaks star Jorgie Porter charms as Iris, the queen
of the ballet class;  Keith Jack, who had
a good run in the  TV talent show Any
Dream Will Do, plays Nick, the confused and confusing  Shakespeare maven.


There are great individual performances from the rest of
the 20-strong cast: Jamal Kane
Crawford brings depth and moves to the character of dancer Tyrone; Stephanie
Rojas displays first rate acting and singing as Carmen, the diva destined to
crash and burn – her ‘In LA’ marks a poignant Act 2 turning point; Molly
McGuire’s Serena steers an amusing and likeable course between ingénue and
ingenuity; and Albey Brookes provides some
broad-brush comedy as Joe the Brooklyn goofball. The only casting mis-step is
the casting of Simon Anthony as Schlomo, scion
of a musical family. An excellent actor, singer and instrumentalist, and who
displays massive heart in the part, it’s a bit of a strain to take him
seriously as a 17-year-old.



There are other performances worth
highlighting, but that’s exactly the problem with  show: whose story is it? While Nick Winston
has done a fine job in creating a punchy and likeable show, he’s fighting
against a vehicle that’s structurally weak. There are so many characters their
story arcs become fleeting and shallow; even in an ensemble piece such as this
it’s good to have a narrative lead to follow.
 
In addition, the music and lyrics, in the
main, lack that show-stopping quality. Tim Whiting as musical director works
hard to invest some power but it’s an uphill struggle.


Not the production’s fault, but certain
tiredness now afflicts the book. Surely the chippy ghetto kid is now a cliché? And
who laughs at fat gags these days?


In pleasing audiences for so long we know
that Fame The Musical will live forever; it just needs an overhaul to learn how
to fly again.

 


 Fame The Musical is at Milton Keynes Theatre
until Sat 29 Jun 2019. This production is recommended for ages 12+ it
contains sexual, drug, mental health references and mild swearing.