★★★ | Fame, Sheffield Lyceum and National Tour
Based on the film and classic TV series, Fame follows the trials and tribulations of a group of young students studying at the New York School of Performing Arts as they hone their skills in music, dance and acting, as well as falling in love, clashing with the establishment, battling personal demons and dabbling in the dark side of fame.
The show follows a small group of students from first meeting to graduation, looking at the challenges they face in their academic studies, their artistic studies and their personal lives. Issues such as drug use, love, sexuality and illiteracy are all canvassed as the friends make their way through their time at school.
The first thing that was noticeable was how the show did feel very fresh and had been updated completely for the 2014 tour. There were iPad’s, mobile phones and references to Katy Perry, Bruno Mars and Rhianna aplenty and the show looked and sounded bang up to date. The variety of musical styles and the vocal gymnastics reflected the modern setting and the dance routines covered a wide variety of styles, from hip hop and street dancing to classical ballet and a flamenco inspired number.
The show boasts around 20 songs which flow in rapid succession giving the show more of a feel of a musical revue than a piece of musical theatre. The opening number “Pray I Make/Hard Work” set the tone of the show nicely and was modern and contemporary. “Tyrone’s Rap” and “Dancin’ on the Sidewalk” were up-tempo numbers, both of which were infused with a display of hip hop and street dancing. But the standout song was saved for the finale, with “Bring on Tomorrow” being a traditional rousing conclusion to the proceedings which was well performed by the ensemble.
The cast were multi-talented, with the whole ensemble being able to sing, dance and act, with some even playing multiple musical instruments. The most notable members of the cast were Alex Thomas, who played dancer Tyrone, and who danced a variety of styles with ease and naturalness. Joseph Giacone was in fine voice and entertained as the hormonally challenged Joe Vegas, putting in a comedic and enthusiastic performance, nowhere more evident than in his musical tribute to his overactive “little Joe”. Molly Stewart also put in a great turn as the underdog, Mabel Washington, and surprised everyone with her powerful voice in a soulful, gospel inspired number.
The set was fairly bland, with very little by way of scenery, set changes or props, but it did provide for a space for a live band on stage, which added to the musical revue feel of the piece. The story itself was fairly thin but was functional. There was little in terms of character development, but this did not come across as a show which was about an in depth story – the attraction here was the music and the well-choreographed set pieces of a variety of dance styles.
The show hits the mark for its target audience and is theatre for a younger generation. It was fun, vivacious and energetic. Fame thankfully doesn’t take itself too seriously and never attempts to be anything other than what it is, which is a fairly shallow but fun and undemanding piece of entertaining song and dance.
Fame is currently playing at the Sheffield Lyceum Theatre until the 5th April 2014 before continuing on its national tour
In between visits to the theatre, watching films, photography, walking, scuba diving and singing (badly); Paul writes for TheGayUK.