Despite its weak script, Nick Winston’s new touring production of FAME THE MUSICAL is full of energy and vigour
Before GLEE (2009-2015) and HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL (2006) came FAME, the original teen musical drama. Directed by Alan Parker, the 1980 film about a group of wannabe New York performers quickly became a success, spawning a hit TV show and a stage musical. 30 years later, FAME THE MUSICAL out on tour once again to celebrate its 30th anniversary, opening at Manchester’s Palace Theatre this week.
For those unfamiliar with the story, FAME THE MUSICAL chronicles the lives and hardships of a group of students attending New York’s High School of Performing Arts. The show explores issues of prejudice, identity, pride, literacy, sexuality, substance abuse and perseverance as the young adults navigate their way through adolescent life.
From the opening number I PRAY I MAKE P.A. to the energetic finale, Nick Winston’s production is certainly full of energy and vigour. The whole show revels in its big set pieces with Morgan Large’s set design providing a good platform for the action and Winston’s well-choreographed dance moves giving this lively production plenty of gusto.
Much of the energy comes from the talented young cast who deliver the big ensemble numbers with enthusiasm and exuberance. Molly McGuire stands out for her likeable performance as besotted acting student Serena and her chemistry with Keith Jack as Nick makes for a wonderful pairing.
Stephanie Rojas is everything Carmen should be; sassy, fiery and confident, with a strong vocal ability to boot which excels in the devastating number IN LA. But the real star of the show is undoubtedly Mica Paris as Miss Sherman whose powerhouse performance of THESE ARE MY CHILDREN has the audience on their feet midway through the show.
Yet, for all its energy and enthusiasm, FAME THE MUSICAL still suffers from a weak script. The biggest issue is we simply don’t care enough about the characters and this lack of an emotional connection means we aren’t really invested in whether they succeed or fail.
Fans of the 80s show might also be disappointed to hear that some of the original songs, such as HI-FIDELITY, DESDEMONA or STARMARKER are missing. While the bunch of new songs, including a couple of rap numbers, go some way to helping update the musical, they aren’t particularly memorable. Even the famous Irene Cara title track only gets an incidental outing, though it admittedly plays a starring role in the finale.
That said, despite being set in the early 1980s, the show still feels relevant and raw and is peppered with themes which continue to resonate today, especially in today’s celebrity-obsessed society.
The show also manages to pack in a few tender and funny moments among the energetic, stage-packed numbers.
Given the audience’s response at the end of the opening night, FAME THE MUSICAL looks set to ‘live forever’.
FAME THE MUSICAL runs at Manchester’s Palace Theatre until 28 July 2018
Donna is the Founder and Editor of Frankly, My Dear UK. By day, she works as a digital marketing specialist, by night she reviews film, theatre and music for a wide range of publications including WhatsonStage and The Reviews Hub. Loves Formula 1, prosecco and life.