Fame: The Musical comes from a rich pedigree. It’s a recreation of a 1980s film that won 2 Academy Awards, 1 BAFTA and 1 Golden Globe. Since then, the film has been adapted in over 25 countries as a musical, to much critical acclaim. Given this lineage, the expectations before the opening night were high, and I wasn't disappointed.
The musical is about a group of talented teenagers at the New York High School for Performing Arts. The teenagers all come from diverse backgrounds but represent the absolute best in their age group when it comes to dance, drama and music. Through the 2 hours 35 minutes of singing and dancing, we see them experience love, heartbreak, anguish, broken dreams and the consequences of lost personal battles. In the midst of all this, it also touches upon several contemporary issues, which, after 38 years since the movie’s inception, are still relevant.
The set is cleverly designed by Morgan Large and features a huge wall of yearbook photographs that takes on different colours to match the atmosphere of the scene and at times, serves as the perfect symbol for the fleeting glitz and glamour of showbiz. The brilliance of the set design won’t be complete without the evocative work done by Prema Mehta on the lighting, which includes holographic scene titles, unobtrusively guiding the audience through the characters’ timelines.
A musical is undoubtedly held up by its leading cast, but a nod must given to the show’s musical directors, Dustin Conrad and Dave Keech and their team for supplementing the actors as they put on a terrific display of their vocal ranges and touch upon several forms of music throughout the performance.
For me, the stand out act of the night was Ms. Sherman, portrayed by Mica Paris, whose rendition of These are My Children got her a standing ovation in the midst of the show and who was faintly reminiscent of Nina Simone during her solos. Not only was her These Are My Children in a league of its own, her duet with Katie Warsop for The Teacher’s Argument was equally commendable.
Amongst the students, it was Carmen and Tyrone who stole the limelight for me. Stephanie Rojas’ performance as the former was replete with wit and pathos and her vocals were well up to the task of leading the audience through the singalong finale, Fame. What Carmen provides with her vocals and wit, Tyrone, played by the supremely talented Jamal Kane Crawford, matches up with his dancing skills, going from hip hop to ballet and not missing a beat.
All in all, Nick Winston, the musical’s director has done a fantastic job in recreating a much loved spectacle on its 30th Anniversary Tour. One can’t help but notice the various allusions to showbiz, including one which seemed like a recreation of a scene out of the other hugely popular musical, Chicago.
The musical ensures that you are back to tapping your feet, laughing at the occasional sharp lines and by the end of it, dancing along with everyone else in a pop concert like finale!
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