**** (4 Stars)
Grand Opera House, York - Monday 17 March, 2014
This production is the new, updated version of the classic 80s musical. Being too young to have seen the original, I can’t compare the two, but I certainly noticed that it is brought right into the current day. In one of the very first scenes, the auditionees are seen receiving their results just as we ourselves often do – either via mobile phones or tablets.
I attended the opening night of the York run, and the house was pleasingly full, spanning all three generations and predominantly female.
The story traces the three-year journey of a new intake of students at the New York High School for the Performing Arts. The characters are all majoring in dance, acting or singing, and, with a lot of “hard work”, they all aspire to become famous in their chosen field.
The stage set up is interesting, with the top half given completely to a mezzanine level on which the band plays. Although this arrangement allows the audience a great view of the musicians, it does limit the scenery possibilities. The moveable trucks, which do give a good representation of locker rooms, stairways and other school settings, are wheeled off-stage and around each other so often that it becomes rather tiresome to watch.
The cast has boundless energy, and features probably stronger dancers than actors, with a couple of exceptions. Landi Oshinowo, playing Miss Sherman, has great stage presence and a voice to match. The scenes between Serena (Sarah Harlington) and Nick (Alex Jordan–Mills) are probably amongst the most believable. The eye is always drawn in the dance scenes to Alex Thomas, playing Tyrone, who has incredible technique and puts all others in the shade: even his ballet dancing partner seems to land more heavily than this graceful giant, twice her size.
Overall, it is a great, feel-good show, but the plot itself is a bit of a mish-mash of individual stories. You leave the theatre on a high of a well-known Disco hit, but you don’t have much empathy with any of the characters. This is no fault of the cast – it’s just a journey that maybe has too many passengers.
Fame is currently on a UK Tour. All the information is here: http://www.atgtickets.com/search/?search=fame