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Home > Current Buzz > 150 On Stage in FAME At The New Theatre in Oxford UK
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Fame: The New Theatre, Oxford
11th August 2010

By Christopher Gray

Oxford last weekend enjoyed two staggering demonstrations of the wealth of performing talent growing up in our midst. At the Theatre in Headington (see Giles Woodforde’s review below) Stagecoach Oxford presented a polished performance of Billy Elliot — The Musical, with just five days (OK, five-and-a half days) of rehearsal. Meanwhile, at the New Theatre packed houses were applauding a well-managed production of Fame from Oxford New Theatre Stage Experience. Ten days of hard slog went into this project, but it was an altogether bigger affair, with a cast of more than `150.

Simply getting such large numbers of youngsters on and off the stage for the company set pieces — including the sensational opening with Hard Work — was obviously going to be a major problem for director Edward Blagrove and his team. On the whole the forces were marshaled effectively, though with a slight feeling of a Gang Show about it at times.

Fame is also a musical with an unusually high number of principal performers — playing a whole class of students at New York City’s High School of Performing Arts, plus their teachers. While this makes it an ideal vehicle for a talent showcase, it can lead to confusion for the audience if characters are not sharply drawn. Commendably, all were here.

Outstanding work came, in particular, from Myles Osborn-Banton, as Tyrone, the dyslexic hip-hop dancer from ‘the wrong side of the tracks’ and from Rebecca Goldie as the teacher, Miss Sherman, who is determined to remind him of the ‘all-round’ aspects of the school’s educational remit. Her performance of These Are My Children was a musical highlight of the show.

I also greatly enjoyed the comic work of Georgina Smith-Black as the overweight Mabel, she of the “Seafood Diet: I see food and then I eat it”. But the ten-day rehearsal period had not provided enough time for her to pack on the weight needed to be fully convincing in the role. By contrast, Charlie Bateman had been able to develop just the right wild-haired ‘mad prof’ look required for Mr Sheinkopf, the music teacher.

The show’s principal love interest between the shy classical musician Schlomo and the sexy, fame-hungry dancer Carmen came across very well in the performances of Sam Johnson and Georgina Hendry. The latter delivered a belting account of the title song, with musical director John Beswick and his band on top form. But a surprise of the evening for me was that we did not get a reprise at the end that would have sent us all off into the night singing of our determination to “live forever”.

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