Feel-good show delivers song and dance with youthful exuberance
MUSICAL THEATRE: Fame: The Musical. By David de Silva, Jose Fernandez, Jacques Levy and Steve Margoshes. Regent Theatre, Melbourne. April 21.
FIRST there was Fame the multiple Academy Award-nominated 1980 film, which in turn spawned a successful television series and then two musicals: Fame: The Musical and Fame Forever: Reunion and Rebirth.
Fame: The Musical is a feverish, furiously energetic, loud fable about startlingly talented, energetic youth. It is a feel-good show that should have no trouble filling its brief eight-week Melbourne season.
The premise is a sort of pre-Chorus Line set-up: a group of bright, hungry, driven kids all want to achieve fame, some at any cost, and some of them think that having successfully auditioned for New York's High School of Performing Arts, they've already made it.
Director and choreographer Kelley Abbey has delivered her large cast with all the discipline and precision of Radio City Music Hall's famous Rockettes and every dance piece is so finely honed that it has the improbable precision and perfection of a video clip.
The cast is uniformly strong. As Miss Sherman, the protective, tough-love teacher, Darlene Love delivered a powerful performance on opening night, highlighted by her rendition of These are My Children. Andrew McFarlane is the sympathetic, encouraging teacher Mr Myers, while doubling as the show's resident director.
Among the cast of students, Chris Durling (who plays Nick Piazza) is emerging as a potential matinee idol in the wake of his earlier successes in The Production Company's Damn Yankees and Follies, and a tour-de-force appearance as half of the cast in the recent two-hander John and Jen at Chapel off Chapel.
Tim Dashwood's Schlomo Metzenbaum is thoughtfully and touchingly portrayed, while the object of his unrequited affection, the tragic Carmen Diaz, has a vulnerable, spitfire appearance that makes a powerful impression.
Catherine Shepherd makes a beautiful Serena Katz and Sam Ludeman revels in his role as the raunchy Joe (Jose) Vegas, stealing the show with Can't Keep It Down (no prizes for guessing what `it' is).
Group numbers, such as the tango that opens the second act, are superbly delivered, as is the famous closing song from the film Fame, I'm Gonna Live Forever, which the band plays loudly enough to leave the ears of audience members ringing for days.
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