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FESTIVAL THEATRE
EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND

By THOM DIBDIN

It seems that Fame will, indeed, live forever. Or at least the musical will, as it returns for yet another run at the Festival Theatre.

That it will fly, is a given. The big question is how high the latest crop of youngsters playing the new entrants to the New York Academy of Performing Arts can take it. And, more to the point, whether anyone will remember their names.

Fame, with its quick succession of big numbers right at the end, and a finale that doesn't so much push out the boat as the big yellow taxi, demands nothing more than a fair to middling cast for the audience to leave the theatre on a high.

Getting the first act right is another matter. As the various students are introduced it is up to the cast to build them into interesting characters and give the show a bit of drive - or leave them as cliches and let it meander towards the interval.

All the big dramas happen in the dance class with Tyrone (Craig Stein) the illiterate street dancer from the ghetto, and posh white Iris (Lisa Ritchie) who doesn't just have a ballet partner on her mind when they couple up. Given his moves, who can blame her.

Adding a spot of humour there's Mabel (Delia Harris), who eats too much to ever achieve the skeletal figure of a dancer. Meanwhile, Leila Benn Harris is excellent throughout as the tragic Carmen who wants fame now - at any price.

The drama students have opportunities to flourish too, and Rachel Hale as star-struck Serena and Edinburgh-born Michael Howell as already-famous soap actor Nick, take them. James Haggie as self-appointed Puerto Rican love god Jose does not.

In the music class Angus MacMillan is strong as Schlomo, trying to step out from his dad's shadow.

He creates strong partnerships with all around him, particularly Carmen. Otherwise it is about as memorable as watching the contestants enter the Big Brother house.

Hit the second half, however, and you realise that although they were not employed for their acting skills, this cast can certainly sing and dance. The teachers even come into their own with Janet Kumah as Miss Sherman giving a strong and memorable rendition of These Are My Children.

Ultimately, however, the only memorable name is Craig Stein (Tyrone). But even he is overshadowed by the show itself. And the biggest name is Fame.

Run ends Saturday

 

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