Theatre Review: Fame the Musical (UK Tour) - New Wimbledon Theatre ✭✭✭

Fame the Musical 

New Wimbledon Theatre

Review by Emma Curry

February 20th 2019: If you can believe it, next year the film Fame will be 40 years old. Gulp! In that time its name has become as memorable as the lyrics of the title song, performed by original lead Irene Cara. The stage show has been running for nearly as long, adapted soon after the film and staged in multiple countries and languages since then. This production at the New Wimbledon Theatre brings together a large ensemble cast made up of some familiar faces and some performers who are making their debut in this show. Leading the way is Mica Paris as headmistress Miss Sherman, whipping these young hopefuls into shape whilst displaying some truly stunning vocal capabilities herself.

The story focuses on the students of the famous New York High School for the Performing Arts, and charts their successes and disappointments across three years of study. They sing, they dance, they form bands, they write songs, they fall in love, fall out, and generally struggle with the joys and angsts of growing up, working out who they are, and realising their potential.

The young cast portraying these students are all hugely talented and many are clearly set for very bright futures in the arts themselves. Stephanie Rojas is one of the standouts as troubled singer Carmen, whose sweet romance with pianist Schlomo (Simon Anthony) and heartbreaking descent into drug addiction is powerfully played out across a number of stunning solo performances. Jorgie Porter, who you may recognise from Hollyoaks, is also very understated and engaging in her role as prim and proper ballerina Iris, whilst Hayley Johnston is a comic highlight as her friend, the cheerful, slightly overweight Mabel. Special mention must go to Jamal Crawford, who gives an absolutely outstanding performance as Tyrone, the dyslexic ballet/street dancer who forms a bond with Iris. His dancing skills are jaw-droppingly good and he is clearly going to be a major West End Star: I can’t have been alone in wishing that his solo dance number could have gone on for the entire second half. 

Alongside these brilliant solo performances and some fantastic ensemble pieces, the only element that slightly lets this show down is the script – whilst each of the individual students’ performances is hugely engaging, there’s not much of a story to tie everything together. At times the show feels like it drifts a little in between the singing, dancing, and musical numbers. The age of the original story was also highlighted in some places – a number of rather outdated stereotypes show themselves in the way certain characters are portrayed, and I found it frustrating that the politics of the entertainment industry were touched upon but remained underexplored (particularly in light of one character’s obvious connection with the ‘me too’ movement).  

Nevertheless, overall this is a cracking evening’s entertainment, full of lights, music, colours, and an upbeat ending with an important message of hope for the future. We were certainly flying high when we came out. Hopefully this is one show that will continue to live forever!

Three stars ✭✭✭

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