Saturday 25 November 2017

Happy and clappy: Fame really might live forever

HIGH ENERGY: 'Fame' has developed an almost entirely new score since the Eighties film
HIGH ENERGY: 'Fame' has developed an almost entirely new score since the Eighties film


WHEN Alan Parker made the film version of Fame in 1980, he could never have imagined that -- 30 years later -- one of its spawn would still have legs. And leg warmers. The stage show, with an almost entirely different score to the original film/TV series, debuted in 1988 -- and has been running somewhere ever since.

The first Irish tour of this show has begun, is directed by Bryan Flynn and stars the two young performers, Ben Morris as Nick and Jessica Cervi as Serena, who won the RTE show created for this purpose.

Fame the Musical chronicles the lives and milder worries of students during their four years in the High School of Performing Arts in NY. Although the action takes place between 1980 and 1984, costumes, references and music have been updated, and feel more modern, and none, bar a chorus or two from Fame, of the songs that plagued the charts in the Eighties features in the stage production.

This version has also been thematically sanitised -- the sexual orientation and drugs issues are all but gone, with class and race being the only subjects even vaguely broached, but to the point of cliche (all black people seem to be struggling from the ghetto).

The closest it gets to contentious is a generous sprinkling of pelvic thrusting, the odd reference to melons and generous packages in ballet tights, and the occasional swear word of the mild to moderate variety.

This is very much a spectacle; it's not meant to be thought-provoking, just fun -- and, as such, it works well. Musicals are a specific taste, but you'd be hard pushed not to enjoy this high-energy and enthusiastic production, with something always going on on stage. The set is effective, the performances great and virtually seamless, and there is real talent on display. Both Morris and Cervi were deserving winners.

I thought, however, the volume (on the night I saw it, at least) was too high, rendering high notes and sax solos painful, and occasionally distorting speech. However, the murmurs of the audience in the bar at the interval were highly appreciative, and fans of all-singing, all-dancing exuberance should be very happy.

'Fame the Musical' is on at the Grand Canal Theatre, Dublin, until September 12, then in various venues around Ireland until November 14

Sunday Independent

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