Fame the Musical is presented by Durban Girls’ High School with permission from Dalro and featuring DGHS learners – obviously female - along with the required male input which has been drawn from schools in the area.
The actual musical premiere of Fame in 1988 was preceded 30 years ago by the original film version which enjoyed worldwide success, winning Academy Awards for Best Music and Best Original Song. After that, the TV series Fame on 42nd Street ran for six seasons, prompting a further reality TV show. A modern movie version was produced in 2009.
Fame the Musical is conceived and developed by David de Silva from the book by Jose Fernandez with lyrics by Jacques Levy and music by Steven Margoshes. The show begins as a group of talented youngsters are about to audition to study dance, music and drama at New York City's High School of Performing Arts. As the musical progresses, the students develop their talents on their way to becoming professional performers. Friendships and relationships are forged and, although the training is hard and tiring, respect gradually grows between the students and their teachers.
Directing the production for DGHS is Rob Klarmann who holds an MA in Dram & Theatre Studies from the University of Kent, UK and is the founding member of the British Theatre Collective Bright Little Elephant. As he states in his notes, he compares the New York City of the 80s as being as diverse in backgrounds, races and cultures as the Durban of today.
Musical director David Daniel leads a tight combo and keeps the pace brisk and invigorating. The chorus harmonies are good and, overall, this is an excellent achievement for this large cast.
Stand-out performances come from Luyanda Mfeka (Serena); Naledi Mpanza (Carmen) and Sibusisiwe Gasa (Mabel) who impressed with their singing abilities.
Alan Birch (Nick). Daniel Erasmus (Schlomo), Wavela Mageba (Joe), Sakhile Nene (Tyrone) and Kayla de Fleuriot (Iris) provided good support. Zahraa Bassa (Miss Sherman), Lushavia Govender (Miss Bell), William Middleton (Mr Myers) and Chris Norwie (Mr Sheinkopf) projected the right element of discipline and student rapport. Nicola Smal and Jason Strydom (who also plays trumpet in the band) gave delightful performances as Lamb Chops and Goody respectively.
Peter Court’s simple scaffolding design was effective allowing for an area at the back of the stage to house the band and higher levels for different acting areas. Ros Toerien was in charge of dancing with the assistance of Tarryn Makaab in two dance scenes.
However, while Fame is a good production for a high school learners, it can be very challenging musically for those without proper singing training and who lack the range demanded by some of the songs. I do feel that in certain instances, the problematic phrases could be dropped in pitch or restructured, making it less stressful for the singer.
That said, Fame abounds with energy, good focus and the dramatic dynamics are well directed with some of the gentler and more romantic scenes presented sensibly and realistically.
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