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Theatre Review: Fame - King's Theatre, Glasgow ✭✭




Fame - the musical was first conceived in the early 80s following the runaway success of the film and TV spinoff that followed.

Fast forward to this 25th anniversary production, the big hair, leg warmers and iconic yellow taxi have gone and the show rebooted and reset in 2014. Goodbye to the 80s and hello to new technology, Katy Perry and Freddie Prinze Jnr references. The cast clutch iPads and smartphones as they pray they make PA and their success is marked by the electronic chorus of email notifications. In some scenes, students record each other on their phones while they rehearse and, although undoubtedly accurate, this becomes distracting for the audience when they are animatedly filming each other while the main action continues elsewhere on stage. 

Everything in the show has been brought up to date including the score but some songs still include references that jar with the new setting. Tyrone's Rap feels out of touch with modern dance and Carmen sings about an "autograph book" when a selfie for Facebook would be a more likely goal for a fame hungry fan in 2014.

Ironically, the large shunt and shift set blocks are reminiscent of the classic 80s game, Tetris. They twist and turn to create the various classrooms and studios in PA but they are cumbersome and restrict the space available to the cast which becomes particularly clear in the high octane dance routines.

Despite the challenges of the update, the young cast work hard to bring it to life. Joseph Giacone's Joe Vegas won the audience's affection early on with a high energy performance of the comedic Can't Keep it Down and his comic timing lightens the piece. Sarah Harlington's Serena is delicate and she portrays Serena's emotional journey beautifully. As fame-seeking Carmen, Jodie Steele brings to life the instant fame hopeful that is probably the most relevant character in 2014. She captures the essence of that desperate search for her name in lights and the inevitable fall from grace sensitively. Molly Stewart’s Mabel came into her own during her comically wonderful rendition of Mabel’s Prayer. Sasi Strallen brings triple threat chic to Iris Kelly and her dancing is exquisite. 

The cast may work hard but this try hard refresh has taken the heart out of the original piece. What audiences love about Fame is its classic 80s setting and without it the musical falls flat. Undoubtedly fans of the show will be disappointed by it and perhaps this lack of confidence has led to the tour’s demise which posted closure announcements yesterday. I don’t doubt that musical theatre must be the hardest profession in the world when the show must go on after you’ve been given a week’s notice. For those in search of a contemporary night out however, Fame does deliver but it’s unlikely that this particular production will live forever in any format.

Fame is at the King’s Theatre Glasgow until 28th June

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