You've got big dreams. You want fame. Well, fame costs. And right here is where you start paying: in sweat. The opening line just sends shivers down my spine of this fantastic production based on the 1980s film. It’s not the same story as the film, so it feels fresh with new hopefuls auditioning to get into PA. PA for those not in the know means Performing Arts. The academy attracts a wide range of talent including students of music, dance and acting. The opening scene is fabulous with all the auditions and the absolute joy on the faces of those who get in. Some of this looks very genuine to me as the actors draw on their real life experiences and who could not be moved by true happiness? It took me back to my own Lamda days and all the hope and dreams you have at that age for your future. The Hard Work number argues which is the best art. Drama? Dance? Music? It really sets the tone for the rest of the show and introduces us to the main characters.
The teachers are very talented and the English teacher, Miss Sherman is played by Mica Paris. She plays a very formable teacher who tries to get the students motivated in her classes. These are my children in the second act was an outstanding number and Mica blew everyone in the audience away. This lady’s still got it. Her colleague for dance class is Ms Bell played by Katie Warsop and really feels every bit the dance teacher. To her talent is more important that academic qualifications. To her dance is life. Katie is such a natural dancer and even walking across the stage is effortless. Katie uses every moment to add a dance kick or arm in and I loved this about her. I would want her as my dance teacher!
The students all have their individual personalities which we get to meet along the way. Nick is played by Keith Jack and he is a serious drama student; Keith really makes him believable. He studies hard and totally looks the part. His love interest is Serena, played by Molly McGuire. Her acting is simply breath-taking; she really has the audience in her grasp.
Jorgie Porter plays Iris who is the best ballet dancer in the school and this is easily demonstrated by her dancing on stage. Jorgie is best known for Hollyoaks so seeing her not just act, but dance and sing too demonstrates she is a true triple threat. What a fantastic talent. Iris falls for Tyrone who is played by Jamal Kane Crawford. Not only can he act and controls the stage when he is present, but he is a talented dancer too; dancing street and even doing a bit of ballet with Jorgie. His character is Dyslexic and flunks English so there is a decision to be made if he will stay in school or leave.
Carmen is a huge personality giving her Spanish roots and attitude a real flavour of her character. Carmen is played by Stephanie Rojas and her performance in both acting and singing is simply off the scale. What a performer! Carmen is a bit of a tragic character, hiding her vulnerability behind a huge personality. Stephanie gives this everything she’s got and we really can see both sides of her personality. She is very likeable on stage and leads the most well-known song, Fame. Joe is played by Albey Brookes and he plays a ‘Jack the lad’ who loves the ladies. He also gives humour to the role and is very enjoyable to watch. I almost wish we had more time to learn more about his character than there is in the script. Mabel is a big girl who loves food and really struggles with dance because of this. Mabel is played by Hayley Johnston and she really gives the whole show some humour and sincerity – I loved that she changed her major when she realised she could eat more with acting at a major. Schlomo is played by Simon Anthony and his acting of this awkward geeky but extremely talented musician is impressive. He also plays the keyboard on stage on top of all the acting, dancing and singing!
I wasn’t keen on the set design of huge photos of 1980s students – they lit up but I found it distracting from the performance and would prefer a more traditional set. The opening scene had two skyscrapers and a small taxi as seen from a birds eye view. It wasn’t obvious what it was and probably cost a lot – it wasn’t needed. And I’d much prefer a big yellow taxi at the end of the show instead of the two small toy taxis going up and down the photos of the students.
The show has a range of style of songs including ballads and rap. But there is no doubt we want to hear Fame! During the show there is a Latin version of the song sung in Spanish as part of the There she goes number, but fear not as the big tune number will also feature at the end of the show and yes, it does get everyone on their feet.
The whole cast were exceptional and gave a great performance for a brilliant show. This show is light hearted, fun and a good night out. The only thing missing was leg warmers, headbands and florescent dance outfits to remind us of the 1980s but maybe that’s intentional and best left in the 1980s!. Fame is gonna live forever. Baby remember my name. Fame!