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Sands Theatre Arts School, Old Fire Station Theatre, 4 - 9 July, 2005
I don't know what image youth theatre conjures up in your mind. For me, it's stilted class plays with musical accompaniment on the recorder and an out of beat triangle - an endurance feat for even the most blinkered doting parent. Well, Sands Theatre Arts School currently present "Fame - The Musical" with not a school drama performance cliché in sight.
The OFS is the perfect location for youth theatre - intimate but professional. The enthusiastic actors, ranging in age from a mere seven years old all the way up to eighteen, presented the musical version of the hit film and TV series at first tentatively but with growing confidence. And despite one or two problems with microphones, all the vocals were clear (even if at times drowned out by the band), though given that some of this group of teenagers are obviously more interested in acting then singing the standard was variable.
At times the storyline of a bunch of college kids at drama school in New York City dealing with academic and personal pressures seemed staid (along with one or two of the actors, but playing in front of a crowd is nerve-wracking for the best of us and an enormous deal when you're in your teens) but, that said, some of the youngsters really shone, finding a natural place on the stage. In particular watch for the performance of Alistair Fyvie as Tyrone Jackson, whose grace and poise on the boards in the first half (both dancing and acting, delivering lines with the confidence of someone who is highly capable and obviously enjoying what he is doing) was accompanied by the surprise in the second act of just how good his voice was. And on the subject of voices, Hazel Galbraith as Serena Katz delivered a consistently impressive level of singing for the whole evening, easily stealing the show on the vocal front with tone and sustain that some professionals would kill for. In fact, I'd say that the show is worth going to simply for a chance to see this pair of young actors prove beyond any reasonable doubt that you don't have to be paying taxes to have genuine stage presence and talent to match. As well as these two solo performances, watch for the well-performed Nick Piazza (played by Michael Betteridge) / Serena double act which delivered the best kiss of the evening, the fifth of a number of stage snogs that varied in believability from genuine passion to hormonal embarrassment (teenagers never change eh?!). Also of note was Vicki Hathaway playing Carmen Diaz who seemed to come alive halfway through singing the title track in the first act and remained on that impressive other gear for the rest of the evening.
One suspects that like a good wine the cast, as they did progressively through the evening, will improve with time and that a seat on Friday or Saturday night would be worth you opening your wallet for, if for no other reason then to see a bunch of kids with talent and enthusiasm have a go at living forever. The director and producer Sandy Bowen should be proud that his charges have delivered another worthwhile effort that proves there's more to youth theatre than some badly-delivered Shakespeare. It's not Bugsy Malone, but there's always next year...
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