Fame the Musical (UK Tour): Assembly Halls, Tunbridge Wells
Reviewed 20th August 2018
2018 marks the anniversary of the ever popular pop/rock production Fame the Musical! Following on from the 1980’s successful film and television series following the students at New York’s High School For The Performing Arts it follows the students highs and lows, romances and heartbreaks as they strive to become the stars of tomorrow. Fame the Musical explores the issues that confront many young people today: prejudice, identity, pride, literacy, sexuality, substance abuse and perseverance. Having been hugely successful across the world it continues to be one of the best loved musicals of its time.
This 30th Anniversary UK tour, directed and choreographed by Nick Winston, vows to take Fame back to its roots and along with a cast of outstanding dancers, singers, musicians and actors the audience is invited to watch as the students transform from star struck pupils to superstars. The choreography by Nick Winston is outstanding! Pacy, non-stop and energetic. The dances are fun and uplifting and are performed passionately. A real mix of modern, hip-hop and latin styles work brillantly together. This show certainly raises the bar high and it is some of the best choreography I’ve seen all year.
Fame the Musical is a highly energetic show and as such it requires a special cast and this 30th Anniversary tour has just that! Stephanie Rojas steals the show as sassy, self-assured Carmen. She moves with conviction and confidence and commands the audiences attention at all times. Clearly an excellent dancer, but it is her portrayal of Carmen’s eventual decline which truly captures the hearts of the audience. ‘In L.A.‘ is heart-breaking. Stephanie’s vocals are exceptional throughout her many musical numbers, but the commitment to the character and emotion in this song alone steals the show. Molly McGuire, likewise, is able to put fantastic emotion into her stand out number ‘Lets Play a Love Scene‘ as awkward romantic Serena. Jamal Crawford’s Tyrone is full with just the right amount of attitude, angst and passion. His dancing is sensational, as is his relationship with Ivy, played by Jorgie Porter, but it is during his solo numbers ‘Dancin’ on the Sidewalk‘ and ‘Tyrone’s Rap‘ where his talent is truly shown. Albey Brookes has the audience in stitches as comedian Joe, particularly during ‘Can’t Keep It Down‘ which hilariously staged. Mica Paris adds an excellent gospel feel to ‘These Are My Children‘ and Simon Anthony excells as Schlomo – his emotion during the finale is heart-breaking.
This is a show which cannot survive without the ensemble and an extremely talented one they are! The choice to have actor/muso is a fantastic one. This is becoming more popular with directors now and sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. In this case it is superb. Of course a show like Fame should have musicians onstage! All of the capable musicians are outstanding, particularly Tom Mussel on the saxophone and Alexander Zane on the trumpet. The actor/musos are utilised especially well during the transitions between scenes which almost become scenes themselves. A minor point that stood out though was the use of an electronic drum kit, surely an acoustic drum kit would have been more in keeping with the 1980’s feel?
The set, designed by Morgan Lamb, is marvellous. A simple backdrop of lit up headshots in 1980’s fashion works brilliantly. The use of the split level again adds something to the production and the props and set pieces are all in keeping with the shows 80’s roots. The lighting, by Prema Mehta, adds a superb dynamic to the show. The lighting through ‘Dancin’ on the Sidewalk‘ in particular shows off the versatility and energy of this set.
Fame the Musical is such a popular show with all ages and this new UK Tour shows just why. It is fun, exciting, uplifting and yet still manages to deal with some hard-hitting issues. For fans of the last West End production there are some changes, the overture for example and the lack of the traditional yellow cab. But the sheer excellence of what this cast and creatives have produced makes up for any changes. Ultimately, Nick Winston’s amazing direction and outstanding choreography makes sure that all the audience leave the theatre feeling elated and ready to ‘Bring on Tomorrow‘. Do not miss this amazing 30th Anniversary tour!
Fame the Musical continues at the Assembly Halls, Tunbridge Wells until the 25th August 2018 where it then continues to tour the UK. For information and tickets click here.
Photo Credit: Tristram Kenton