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FAME - the Musical @ The Waterside Theatre, Aylesbury

Published by: Yvonne Delahaye on 27th Mar 2014 | View all blogs by Yvonne Delahaye

‘You want fame? Well, fame costs and right here is where you start paying in sweat.’  These iconic words are still used today to promote the New York City High School for Performing Arts, where this musical is based.  Conceived by David de Silva, he enlisted British director Alan Parker to make the hugely successful 1980 film FAME, which was remade in 2009.  The film spawned a TV spin-off show featuring many of the original film cast Lee Curreri, Albert Hague, Gene Anthony Ray and Debbie Allen. Irene Cara, who played Coco Hernandez, had a massive worldwide hit with the title song and the movie won its composer, Michael Gore, two Academy Awards for Best Score and Best Song.

Thirty four years after the film’s release and people are still dreaming of stardom and success, but many now get fast-tracked through the route of reality TV, without the hard work, sweat and sacrifice professional training demands.  In 1967 journalist and broadcaster Malcolm Muggeridge wrote ‘in the past if someone was famous or notorious it was for something – as a writer or an actor or a criminal; for some talent or distinction or abomination.  Today one is famous for being famous.  People who come up to one in the street or in public places to claim recognition nearly always say ‘I’ve seen you on the telly.’

FAME The Musical has retained its following despite many incarnations and this new production has perhaps lost some of the dynamism of the past.  Gone are the iconic legwarmers, which is a great shame especially as some of the audience arrived in them complete with lycra leggings!  This production has brought the story up-to-date complete with mobile phones, but I thought it would have been better to keep it set in the 80s as a timepiece of bygone times, before the advent of reality TV.  The story focuses more on the relationships between Carmen Diaz (Jodie Steele) and Schlomo (Harry Blumenau), the extraordinarily lithe Alex Thomas as Tyrone and Iris (Sasi Strallen) and the crush Serena (Sarah Harlington) has on Nick (Alex Joran-Mills).

We have to wait until the second act to see some of the best dance routines, which I’d have like to have seen more of, by Director and Choreographer Gary Lloyd.

Landi Oshinowo as Miss Sherman
There was a stellar performance by Landi Oshinowo as Miss Sherman, whose rich, gospel tones lifted the whole production.

FAME has enjoyed seven West End runs since premiering in the USA in 1988 and continues to be performed all over the world.  There is only one tune you’ll be singing on your way home and that, of course, is the title track FAME and it’s gonna live forever!

The show runs at The Waterside Theatre, Aylesbury to 29th March and the tour continues to:

Liverpool Empire
14th-19th April 
Edinburgh Playhouse Theatre
21st-26th April
Regent Theatre Stoke-on-Trent
28th April-3rd May

Reviewed by:
Yvonne Delahaye


1 Comment

  • Cameron Lowe
    by Cameron Lowe 4 years ago
    Thanks, Yvonne. I think there is always an interesting debate around whether a period piece should be "updated" for a modern audience. For me, I think this is only the right thing to do when the period setting gets in the way of connecting with the audience; when an aspect of character, behaviour or story arc is no longer recognised in modern society. It certainly shouldn't be motivated by updating fashion accessories or introducing modern technology. It's weird for me to be talking about the 80s as "period" (I am THAT old) but I think this is a valid debate whether we are talking about 1980s or 1780s!
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