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Fame! The Musical

Alexander Theatre, Birmingham

2010

****

GEMMA Hudson. Remember her name. She might not live forever but she is certainly learning to fly - and pretty high at that on this performance as Carmen Diaz in a lively production of Fame.

The 18-year-old is a star in the making. Not many people might know her name yet - but they will.

Hers is the brightest in a galaxy of stars in the latest Alexander Theatre Stage Experience project which has brought together more than 150 youngsters aged from nine to 24 from across the Midlands - 140 on stage and another 15, under professional guidance, on lights, sound, stage managing and wardrobe.

In just 10 days of hard work under professionals director Pollyann Tanner Matthew Freeman they have put together a show to rival many a professional production which is no mean achievement.

Equally impressive was managing to get the cast of thousands on stage at the same time without it looking like rush hour at New Street Station, even spreading the show out into the audience with chorus members flooding the aisles for the big numbers.

WIth a cast to rival Ben Hur the bows and chorus calls alone almost constituted a third act!

This is a show about dreams, about hard work and wanting and working to become stars which could well apply to many of the cast who are probably well aware that at the New York School of Performing Arts on which the show is based, 90 per cent of their already remarkably talented pupils fail to make it professionally.

TALENTED CAST

Among the remarkably talented cast at the Alex, Nicholas Brady turned it a quality performance as the slightly nerdy, bookish Nick Piazza and revealed a fine voice to boot, while none of the other leads could be faulted with Matthew McNulty finding laughs as Joe Vegas, Jess Singer finding love eventually with Nick as Serena Katz - her Think of Meryl Streep was a highlight - Adam Carver was believable as musician Schlomo Metzenbaum while Anna Lakin produced the goods as dancer Iris Kelly.

Allana Boden as the no nonsense English teacher Miss Sherman showed she could really deliver a song in the gospel style These are my Children and in her duet with Nicola Coall’s Miss Bell in the dramatic teacher’s argument about school bad boy - illiterate dancer Tyrone Jackson.

Understudy Jahrel Thomas, meanwhile, grabbed his chance to show some classy dance moves as the angry young Jackson.

But back to Miss Hudson who has appeared on the site before in reviews for Youth Onstage. She can act, dance and has a superb voice as she showed in the romantic ballad Bring on Tomorrow with Schlomo, belting out big numbers as in There She Goes and the theme song Fame and tugging the heartstrings with the emotional In LA.

No X-factor style voice bending here - just quality from start to finish. The show lasts three hours but you would hardly know it as time flies by in a thoroughly entertaining evening.

The project, now in its eighth year, is a worthy concept and the Alex should be congratulated for sponsoring it. The investment has shown a handsome return with a show of genuine quality, full of enthusiasm, fun and no little talent. Well worth seeing. To 28-08-10.

Roger Clarke

Take Two . . .

****

IT'S a fair bet that some of the youngsters in this spectacular show will eventually make acting their professional careers.

Brought together for this theatre's highly successful annual Stage Experience project, the cast of 150 - aged between nine and 24 years - were superb from start to finish.

Recruited from right across the Midlands, they revelled in the story of hard work, love and tragedy for newcomers at the New York High School of Performing Arts.

It was remarkable to see so many talented kids packed onto the stage which looked as busy as Junction 10 of the M6 at Walsall on an average Friday afternoon.

They created a colourful kaleidoscope effect dancing to some of the hit music which included Bring On Tomorrow, I Wanna Make Magic and, of course, Fame.

TERRIFIC PERFORMANCE

Full marks to the professional production team in charge of the project, particularly director and choreographer Pollyann Tanner, musical director Matthew Freeman and producer Andrew Lister.

There was a terrific performance from Gemma Hudson as the tragic Carmen Diaz, who succumbs to drug addiction, Nicholas Brady sang superbly in the role of Nick Piazza, and there were outstanding contributions from Matthew McNulty (Joe Vegas), Jess Singer (Serena Katz), Nicola Coall (Miss Bell), Anna Lakin (Iris Kelly) and Adam Carver (Schlomo Metzenbaum).

Understudy Jahrel Thomas danced brilliantly as problem boy Tyrone Jackson, and there was a memorable scene when Allana Boden (Miss Sherman) sang the emotional These Are My Children while the young cast used torches to illuminate their faces on the darkened stage.

Fame! The Musical ends its term on Saturday night. 28.08.10.

Paul Marston

And let's hear it one more time . . .

WHAT'S not to like; each member of the cast of Fame the Musical is a star in their own right. The show is non-stop, hi-energy entertainment which leaves you feeling exhausted at times and mostly makes you smile and occasionally brings a tear to your eye.

The Alexandra Theatre’s eighth annual Stage Experience project has brought together the best of local talent, all aged between 9 and 24, to work with the theatre’s own professionals. The enthusiastic 140-strong cast and 15 technical staff were chosen from the 1000s of hopefuls who auditioned for a chance to participate in the show.

The cast are obviously enjoying the whole experience. To see so many talented young people on stage at one time is amazing (Pollyann Tanner’s direction and choreography is first class); and those who lack, but only a little, in ability make up with boundless enthusiasm. They do extremely well with the less than brilliant songs and storyline.

FAST-PACED SHOW

The show is fast-paced and we join the huge, mixed age, multi-talented and multi-ethnic group as they await auditions at the NY City’s High School of Performing Arts and then anxiously wait to hear if they have been successful (I pray, PA). This is the final group to graduate before the academy moves to the Lincoln Centre.

We follow them through the ups and downs of college life, drama, unrequited love, comedy, unlikely relationships, bad decisions and good ones. The moral of the story, is that success is not only about talent and ambition but education and hard work too. A cautionary tale of the dangers of drugs is also told.

The cast and technical and production team received a standing ovation. Judging by the enthusiasm of the ovation I suspect that there were many proud parents in the audience, and rightly so.

Andrew Lister, the producer and general manager of the Alex congratulated whole company, professional and amateur. I second this wholeheartedly.

Lynda Ford


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