Thursday 27 April 2017

Show aids home-grown talent in quest for Fame

ANDREA BYRNE

Not only was The X Factor one of the most watched programmes on television last year, it also became a national talking point. And the runaway international success of the television show Glee is further proof that our insatiable appetite for musical programming remains as strong as ever.

Now, a home-grown talent show that begins tonight on RTE hopes to tap into our need for sugar-coated, escapist, feel-good family entertainment, by searching for Ireland's next all-singing, all-dancing and all-acting musical star.

In a first for Irish television, Fame: The Musical is offering one boy and one girl the chance to kick-start their career and land their dream job touring the country.

According to Jacinta Whyte, one of the show's judges: "It is a cross between The X Factor and the search for Dorothy that is on at the moment."

Now living in London with her husband and their 10-year-old son, the Artane-born judge is one of Ireland's biggest musical-theatre exports.

Spotted when she was 12, she has enjoyed a high-profile career in the West End, playing the lead in Blood Brothers, Miss Saigon, and Les Miserables among many others.

"Having auditioned for years, I know what it is like. It is damn hard to stand on a stage, when you have three minutes to show what you can do," she said.

"There was some really good talent. When it was bad, it was really bad, when it was good, it was really good.

"Some of the kids we saw didn't realise how good they were because they don't get the opportunities in Ireland that they would get in the UK. I was particularly impressed with the girls."

While undeniably Ireland does not have much of a history of producing world-class musical theatre, Whyte, who runs a musical theatre production company with her husband, feels the tide is turning and it is aided considerably by the new purpose built, state-of-the-art Grand Canal Theatre.

"You can always have the big English productions coming in from the West End and they'll be fantastic, but there is no reason now why Ireland cannot produce its own show as well," said Whyte.

She will be joined on the judging panel by internationally acclaimed actress, singer and songwriter Erica Gimpel who starred in the original Fame movie and the TV series, as well as actor and director Simon Delaney and stage producer Robert C Kelly.

'Fame: The Musical' airs tonight at 6.30 on RTE One

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