Review: Fame − lighting up the sky like a flame
PUBLISHED: 15:27 11 June 2019
Always happy to revisit my childhood years, I skipped along in the pouring rain to the Bristol Hippodrome for the opening night of Fame - The Musical last night (Monday).
Like many others of my era, I lapped up the trials and tribulations of students at New York City High School For The Performing Arts while learning their craft during the 1980 film and the spin-off series, which ran for six seasons, from 1982-1987.
Whenever family friends visited or we visited them, us kids used to devise and perform a skit based on the show which involved my brother as the only boy wearing a curly wig and playing the piano as Bruno Martelli and me and my friend fighting it out to be the blonde popular girl Julie but me being curly-haired always ended up as ditzy Doris. Happy memories indeed!
The bittersweet but ultimately uplifting show explored the issues confronting teenagers of the day, including prejudice, identity, pride, sexuality, substance abuse and perseverance.
And because these issues are still very much relevant today, the premise has been used again and again by TV and film producers, particularly in America with a resurgence in recent years of shows such as Glee and films like High School Musical.
The musical version of Fame was devised by the same producer as the film and series, David De Silva, using new writers to change the story and characters and it first played in London's West End in 1995.
This touring production stars one of the UK's most respected female soul singers, Mica Paris, as English teacher Miss Sherman, fellow celebrity Jorgie Porter, the reality TV regular and Hollyoaks actor playing Iris Kelly and runner-up of BBC1's Any Dream Will Do Keith Jack in the role of Nick.
Paris' massive talent and status seemed a little wasted for the one number she sang, the heart-wrenching ballad These Are My Children in which she easily stole the show. Theatregoers around me gasped in awe and a woman behind us gave an audible 'wow' which was then followed by thundering applause, which even drowned out the sound of torrential rain hitting the theatre roof.
Porter returned to her ballet roots, giving a convincing and talented performance as the star dancer, with a great chemistry exuding between her and Jamal Kane Crawford as Tyrone, a talented hip-hop dancer and choreographer, hindered by his poor upbringing.
Jack also put in a solid effort as serious actor Nick who seems devoid of all emotion in his real life, playing opposite Molly McGuire as Serena, who falls for him while studying together but their love is thwarted by him only wanting to focus on their rehearsals. This provides the opportunity for some heart-wrenching songs which show off her impressive pair of lungs, including solos Let's Play A Love Scene and Think of Meryl Streep.
The main storyline hangs on a particularly fame-hungry student Carmen and her struggles with drug-taking and being lured to the bright lights of LA by a dubious agent. Stephanie Rojas packed a powerhouse performance in a difficult role which took her from a sexy Spanish dance siren in the title song, to a down-on-her-luck addict living on the streets.
The not-particularly-original storyline was more than made up for by the exceptionally skilled singing and dancing by the whole cast and the costumes will make you want to don your old legwarmers and headbands to bust out some high-energy moves in your lounge.
Fame will be at the Bristol Hippodrome, in St Augustines Parade, until Saturday at 7.30pm each night.
There are also 2.30pm matinees tomorrow (Wednesday) and Saturday.
Tickets, starting at £16.90, are available on 08448 713012 or www.atgtickets.com/bristol