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Woking News & Mail
2nd September 2004

High energy Fame left the audience dancing all the way home

If you enjoyed the movie you'll love the musical.

It's been 18 years since David de Silva transferred every child's dream of becoming famous onto the big screen, and the stage version has gone from strength to strength.

The performance of Fame at the Old Victoria Theatre in Woking didn't disappoint.

The high energy and in many ways breathtaking production left the audience practically dancing - and singing - their way out of the theatre.

Set in and around the New York High School of Performing Arts between 1980 and 1984, the story follows a crop of students who make it into the academy, and charts their highs and lows as they bid to graduate and become famous.

There is little else of substance to the story line, but the production is really about the stunning dance routines, the convincing acting and the powerful voices.

It has its fair share of colourful - if stereotypical - characters.

There's the dippy and likable Serena, played by Rachel Hale; the illiterate black kid with plenty of attitude, Tyrone, played by Craig Stein - a big hit with the audience, and the star of the show - the sexy and sassy Carmen, dripping with attitude and played masterfully by Leila Benn Harris.

She belts out "Fame!...I wanna live for ever.." for all that she is worth and almost inspired the audience to do the same.

I felt the audience was able to empathise with her as she quits the academy in favour of the bright lights of LA, where she thinks she can realise her dreams of stardom more readily, only to return disappointed and dejected.

The story has plenty of sexual innuendo and drug references, so I was quite surprised at the number of children in the audience.

The students at the academy are taught to work hard and be self-disciplined and this is drummed into them from the start.

Carmen is told by her dance tutor -- "If you don't deal honestly with your emotions you'll be just another pretty face."

The production is full of catch-phrases and like these and clichés, and they can tend to grate - especially when the students seem to be far from disciplined and are rarely in control of their emotions.

But this all prepares them well for the grand finale, when we have the "dancing on the taxis" scene and plenty of energetic dance routines to send them on their way to fame.

The audience loved the performance and got into the swing of things at the end when they were invited to get up and dance and sing.

Fame was a highly enjoyable production and provides two hours of feel-good escapism.

By Karen McIntyre


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