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    LIVERPOOL EMPIRE THEATRE, MONDAY 14TH APRIL 2014

     

    “Remember my name...FAME!”


    Yes these infamous (if you pardon the pun) words have been the soundtrack to generations of aspiring performers across the globe. Before there was Glee...before there was High School Musical...there was Fame. Ready to shake my best dance moves, I went along to see the classic tale brought to life on the Empire stage…


    An up to date interpretation of the story rather than the assumed 1980’s original, Director and Choreographer Gary Lloyd has presented this 21st century take with style, flair and dedication to detail. Featuring a cast of dancers, actors and musicians hoping to make it big, all the trials and tribulations of the industry captured in the original film have transferred well to the stage. Making the transition from film to the theatre is a challenge in itself; one that the entire creative team has tackled exceptionally through slick set changes, well-timed choreography and powerful musical direction.


    The story (as many will know) is set amidst the backdrop of New York’s High School for the Performing Arts, or “PA” as it is known to its students. Focusing primarily on 10 students as they develop their craft over three years, we see their battles with love, loss and the challenges of standing out from the crowd. Whilst as an ensemble their tight and well-rehearsed harmonies sent shivers of delight throughout the auditorium in numbers such as ‘Hard work’ and ‘Bring on Tomorrow’, the large cast of characters meant that I couldn’t become emotionally attached to one or two characters. This made it difficult at times to feel empathy for a character’s plight, as the scenes changed so quickly from one group of performers to the next. Maybe though this is a reflection of the industry - there’s so many hopefuls clambering for the spotlight...who do you choose to focus on?


    The cast however - no matter how large - shone tremendously throughout the production. Particular favourites included the exceptional Alex Thomas, who played the academically troubled but gifted dancer Tyrone Jackson. His transformation from an egotistical performer to a hardworking but challenged youth was realistically characterised; neither too under or overplayed, showing a real transition taking place through age and experience over the Tyrone’s educational career. Whilst other characters seemed a little too caricature to be believable, Alex Thomas communicated the social and economic issues that seem to trouble performers all too often and captured them in one of the most memorable performances of the show. Plus his dance moves are exquisite - perfectly timed and mind-blowingly good.

     


    Speaking of dance moves, every routine within Fame deserved a standing ovation. We’re all used to countless dance troupes on reality television, but dance is one of those art forms that when well-rehearsed and in sync can truly make you stop and stare. The routines in Fame did just that. The opening ‘Junior Festival’ sequence was an absolute spectacle, particularly the ‘Carmen’ routine led by the hilariously good Joseph Giacone (in the role of Joe Vegas). Every movement line was in the right place, with each tap of the foot and stare into the audience practically oozing passion. A special applause goes to Sasi Strallen, who as Iris Kelly exemplified perfect pirouettes and the beauty of classical dance in a performance equally as good for any National Ballet company.


    Of course it’s not all about the students. Behind every artist, there is always a mentor or teacher who has guided them on their path to superstardom. In this story it’s no different. Landi Oshinowo’s Principal Miss Bell showcased all the frustration of wanting to support her students whilst remaining stuck in a rigid rule system. Her heartfelt ballad ‘These are my children’ was powerful, emotional and at one point, actually brought tears to my eyes. She hit every note with precision and care whilst her facial expressions signified the sadness behind her own dilemma. We all have a teacher who has helped us through a hard time or academic problem, making you think of how much we owe to those people who guide us through. In one way that is the strength of a show like Fame - it doesn’t just show the fun and laughter of crafting your art...it shows the tough situations that not only affect you, but the others around you on the way to the top.


    Now we’ve spoken dance, we’ve spoken acting but what of the actual music itself? Well Fame is a musical of many genres including rap, classical and pop. This dynamic range reflected a wide variety of influences on performers within the industry, with songs such as the electro-grime and dubstep beats of ‘Dancin’ on the sidewalk’ cleverly signifying the tension of specific narrative moments. My admiration for the diverse dynamic range however was interrupted by the titular song ‘Fame’. Although iconic, after the third time of hearing the song it begins to become a little tiresome. However I can’t deny that when I first heard the synthesised opening melody, a smile was brought to my face because quite simply no performance of Fame would be complete without it.


    In short, Fame has been excellently recaptured for a new generation. Although some of the musical numbers may be a little hit and miss, the cast are superb and will have you laughing (and crying!) all the way through. If you’re a fan of the film, then this is one musical you certainly don’t want to miss.

     

    Photographs (C) Hugo Glendinning

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      Sarah's posts By Sarah O' Hara
      @TheLowdownMag


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