By Jeremy Smith
Simon Cowell could learn a thing or two from the producers of Fame, Oxford New Theatre’s Stage Experience production.
In just 10 days, they have taken 150 local youngsters, some raw, some just madly passionate, and some a little older and more experienced, through auditions, rehearsals and fits of first-night nerves to produce a show that is little short of miraculous.
It bristles, it fizzes and explodes with such extraordinary energy and accomplishment, you wonder why professional theatre companies – who can take months to get a show off the ground – so often fail to ignite the touchpaper.
Pop Idol and Britain’s Got Talent are all very well, but they’re mainly about individual performers and performances – a Get Rich Quick/Find Fame Fast philosophy.
What Stage Experience 2010 achieves however is far more satisfying and rewarding, both from the audience’s point of view and, I suspect, the performers.
With this electrifying production (and trust me, I’ve chosen that word carefully), it’s all about everyone, and although the principal cast is outstanding, so are all those in the chorus too, whether they’re aged just eight, nine, or in their mid-teens (however, do look out for the chap in the yellow T-shirt – you can’t miss him – who does the splits centre stage. You, sir, have style).
As for the production itself, it opens with all the style and finger-clicking synchronicity of Chicago or, better still, West Side Story.
The curtain rises and the stage is a riot of pink and blues and yellows as all 150 cast members sing and dance their way through Hard Work.
Director Edward Blagrove and choreographer Katie Clements literally pull off a theatrical tour de force that even Cameron Mackintosh would be proud to showcase.
And then, if it were possible, it just gets better. Like many in the audience (of this I’m sure) I found it a humbling experience.
To witness talent this exhuberant, this alive, and this homegrown was, to put it simply, a privilege.
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