FAME the Musical | Palace Theatre | Manchester
For its 30th anniversary tour, the students of New York’s High School for The Performing Arts are placed in a slow cooker of relentless pressure. Following the talented teens through their four-year academic journey, FAME exposes the industries prying antics and the pitfalls set for the wannabe celebrities.
Sitting between its 1980 original, a six-season TV series and a cartoonish 2009 remake, FAME continues to remain relevant by relating to audiences through its message of inclusion. The storylines play into the sensitivities of the day, with a mixture of performance and pain that continues to connect. Sexuality, race and privilege are explored through the relationships within the drama, dance and music departments. The show reveals a shocking level of awareness from its 80s teens and attempts to keep the substance of its original by juggling difficult themes. Within its original class, the film mixed an illiterate black dancer, a closeted actor and a failing student as they pushed for recognition within their industry.
Although its recent high-school musical reboot, wrapped the downsides of fame in cheesy clichés, FAME the Musical walks a tightrope between the two. Not quite offering the gritty realism of its predecessor, the live production by SellADoor company restores the archetypal characters. Between the rapper, the quiet one and the joker, it balances a likeable refresh of the familiar.
Highlighting the harsh realities of life for the students is Miss Sherman (Mica Paris). Her focus on their academic studies is a constant reminder that the majority of the talented troupe will not make a living in the arts. The, I Wanna Hold On to You singer lends her soulful vocals to the production, bringing the assertive performance of a staple star.
At the Palace Theatre the high-flying kicks were hitting audience members in the gallery seats. Director/choreographer Morgan Large offers a party atmosphere throughout the shows 2 hours 35 minutes production. The impressive cast boasts a combination of theatre, musicians and TV performers, including Tyrone Huntley (Sister Act and The Book of Mormon), former Hollyoaks actress Jorgie Porter (Iris) and Keith Jack (Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat). Using group choreography, stage singers and live musicians, it performers delivered spirited routines in every scene.
The personality of the production was not only left to the cast as the charming set design offered far more than a simple school stage. The student bodies yearbook pictures adorned the walls while the productions songs elevated the pacing of the story. These Are My Children, Think of Meryl Streep and the duet Let’s Play a Love Song help form relationships and tie up loose ends within its large cast.
Wrapped around its Oscar-winning song, the final farewell for the class of 84 offers a feel-good anthem for all the aspiring stars in the audience and despite its 80s flavour, FAME continues to offer a strong stage presence.