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REVIEW: Fame The Musical at Wolverhampton Grand
By Dan Richards
We reviewed the current production of 'Fame' earlier in its run. This review is an updated version of a previously published one.
Based on the 1980 film, Fame follows the lives of a group of students at New York’s High School For The Performing Arts as they navigate their way through the highs and lows, and the romances and the heartbreaks, of life.
Fame is probably one of the first musicals I ever saw, so it holds a special place in my heart. This production was sold to me as a reinvention of the show which was a bittersweet sentiment. Certainly, the last few versions I've seen have never really reinvented the wheel. The same set, the same orchestration - possibly even the same costumes - had made the show start to seem as generic as they come. However a small part of me also quite liked that and didn't want this new version to attempt to modernise or majorly alter anything about it.
The show has seen no less than eight West End runs, with the latest just a few months back, since opening on Broadway in 1988. It features the Oscar-winning title song and a cast of outstanding dancers, singers, musicians and actors as they transform from star struck pupils to superstars.
First thing's first - this production has categorically rekindled my love affair with Fame. Dynamic, uplifting and bringing the staging straight into the 21st century, there is very little to say about this show that's not incredibly positive. The inclusion of a wall of yearbook photos made for an interesting take on the set - but, coupled with some exquisite lighting, during numbers like These Are My Children, the additions served as a beautifully poignant enhancement for the show.
And that positivity is only emphasised with one of the most perfectly put together casts I've seen in a long time. There was a lot of hype about our leads and there's always a concern that putting names on posters is a way to ensure bums on seats - but each and every member of our cast this evening was there on merit alone.
Keith Jack takes on the role of Nick, the slightly obsessive student who becomes the love interest of Serena (Molly McGuire). The chemistry between the pair of them is plain to see and serves to allow an audience to quickly realise they’re perfectly suited to the parts. McGuire in particular is, for me, one of the unsung heroes of the production, with a fantastically addictive take on one of the most vocally demanding characters, she makes her performance seem effortless.
Best known for her time in Hollyoaks, Jorgie Porter excelled as Iris Kelly, showcasing a dance ability way beyond expectation. As crass as it sounds, you could be forgiven for making presumptions about soap stars taking to the stage - but those preconceptions are blasted out of the water when you watch Porter perform and realise she deserves her place on stage as much as anybody else in the cast.
Stephanie Rojas stars as Carmen - the character who’s storyline forms the mainstay of the piece and who sings THAT song at the end. For me Rojas was one of the stand out performances of the night. Her voice is outstanding and her dancing captivating - without doubt someone we’ll see on stages around the country in years to come.
Taking over from Mica Paris who departed the show a few months back, Josie Benson takes on one of the behemoth's of the story; Miss Sherman. Vocally, she is outstanding and her performance of These Are My Children was world class. Her years of practice showed as her effortless vocals filled the auditorium and took us on the full range of emotions - considering Sherman is one of the most underused characters in the story, Benson stamped her mark from the very beginning.
Let’s put it bluntly. This production of Fame The Musical continues to be a masterclass in musical theatre from start to finish. One of my favourite songs from the show - Bring On Tomorrow - was visually STUNNING, and I can’t emphasise that enough.
The harmonies, the instrumentation - everything about it was perfect and served to remind me why this show is such a special piece of theatre. I’ve had the pleasure of doing this theatre thing for a good few years and I’m in no doubt that this piece is well and truly in my top ten pieces of theatre - period.
Fame The Musical runs at Wolverhampton Grand until Saturday 23rd November. For More information, or to get your tickets, head to grandtheatre.co.uk.
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