Fame the Musical
28th October 2017
Knutsford Musical Theatre Company
Memorial Court Northwich
Type of Production
Author: Louise Colohan
Fame the Musical, the 1980’s iconic movie of the same title inspired generations to follow in the footsteps of Irene Cara and pursue a career in performance. How many of us can vividly remember the image of her dancing on the yellow taxi and dreaming of doing the same. Fond childhood memories of watching the Fame series on a Saturday morning then insisting on role playing each character for the rest of the day. It is these memories that were uprooted in my heart once again whilst attending this production.
As director Ben Ireson, is best known for creating new ideas to get the most from the script and cast. He made the decision to bring this show in to the present, did it work? Far removed from the typical 80’s style we usually witness in this musical, the leg warmers and very bright coloured costumes and harsh blue eye-shadow, Ben Ireson achieved a certain realism by removing these distractions and what we got was rawness in buckets with the real themes jumping out. Drug abuse, the urgency to find fame, people are willing to do anything to succeed, weight-issues, sexuality, loneliness and learning difficulties. I greatly admire Ben for stressing these themes to make this piece more relevant than I can ever remember this show being. So, to answer my question, yes this certainly worked for me and was popular with the audience in attendance.
Musically, this show has much to offer, exploring a good number of styles and genres within the score. The ensemble work was of a good standard and Beckie Morley achieved a good sound from the cast. The opening number set a very high bar for this ensemble and there were on top form throughout, the final song, the title “Fame” was exceptional and really showcased the range of vocals within this cast. The band were tight and fully engaged in the score and dressed in keeping with the theme. The following remark is meant with no offence but the fantastic showpiece ‘Yellow Taxi’ kept the musical director out of sight, this meant we were not distracted by the conducting, a welcomed measure. If I am to find anything negative within the musicality, it will be to say that the band during underscore sections and particularly Tyrone’s Rap were too loud. Something to consider for future productions.
Leah Dovey- Evans, a very young lady to take on a mammoth task, but she has displayed her ability as a choreographer in buckets. Effective, modern and energetic routines were executed well by her cast, keeping the movement simple in places to cater for each ability on stage. The movement was at times repetitive with minor changes to an arm to mix it up, this kept it fresh while also ensuring the cast were not overloaded and solely focused on the movement. Job very well done. Also playing the role of Iris Kelly, perfectly cast. Leah really excelled in her dance as one would expect but her pointe number was stunning to watch.
Dani Fray as Carmen Diaz, played a street-wise popular girl very well. Loved her character and her accent suited the role very well, excellent characterisation. Her interaction with fellow cast members, particularly the banter between her and Joe Vegas was very believable. Her vocal was so lovely on the lower register but I felt she was struggling on the higher belt in this performance, I can’t say it detracted from her performance but I was more concerned that she had to do it all again later in the evening.
Jonathan Hall as Nick Piazza, firstly, I must say I enjoyed “I want to make Magic” so much and I was delighted to hear it again in its reprise. He dealt with this number with sincerity and it was stripped back to allow us to see a real heart-felt performance. I felt his interaction with Serena was good but it lacked chemistry at times.
Oliver Hale as Jose “Joe” Vegas, what a performer, an excellent portrayal of his character, bringing all the comedy value to his scenes without much effort. His performance of “Can’t Keep it down” was one of the highlights of the performance.
Joel Cornwall Wallace as Tyrone Jackson, who I understand stood in last minute to this role, played it well and certainly got his theme across. This theme is a difficult one to portray but his reaction within the classroom based scenes achieved this aspect. A very fine dancer, and very impressed at the standard of performance he achieved having been such a late addition to the cast. “Dancing on the Sidewalk” was excellent.
Hannah Radcliffe as Serena, played a nice character which had plenty of scope to grow as the story progressed. I felt there was a build-up of chemistry missing between her and Nick, and it was a pity as it had great potential at the start. Hannah is a fine actress and her rendition of “Think of Meryl Streep” was heartfelt and very well-considered in her facial expressions. There is also a good quality of vocal in this lady which needs more development as I felt there were tuning issues throughout.
Holly McEleny, as Mabel, I loved her character, she played this role well. Witty and full of life in her scenes, she lit the stage up. The vocal was stunning with “Mabel’s Prayer” being a very good moment in the show.
Alex Aram as Schlomo Metzenbaum, this role sometimes goes unnoticed but certainly not the case in this production, he really got the most from this character. The harmonies achieved in his song with Carmen “Bring on Tomorrow” were beautiful. We could see him falling in love with her, again bringing the realism to the fore.
Clare Moorhouse as Miss Ester Sherman, gave in my estimation the most stunning vocal performance of “These are my Children” it was an exceptional number and the standout moment of the performance. What a great grasp of her role, and only when her story is revealed do we see the real character come out. Good acting performance, she played it cold and standoffish, leaving her a definite area of growth for her character.
Claire Pilkington as Ms Greta Bell, I enjoyed her performance but wanted a touch more sass . I enjoyed her performance with Miss Sherman “Teachers Argument” and at this point I felt she had nailed the character. Claire has a nice vocal and I felt she was more confident when she was in duet.
David Hussin as Mr Myers, gave a solid performance. His reaction during the “I can’t keep it down” was very good indeed. He delivered his character well.
Andy Dolan as Mr Sheinkopf, I wished there was more for this character, his short stage time indicated that he is a fine character actor, having an excellent accent and great presence.
All other supporting roles were well executed, developed and supported the director’s vision perfectly.
The set was good and functional with two levels, a full walk around on the higher level. This was well used and very effective. A very nice addition was the drop-down lights and did I mention I loved the Yellow Taxi.
Lighting was very good, the New York graphics worked well. I only felt that there was a lack of lighting at the outer edge of the stage where Mabel sang, that is my only fault. The lighting plot created by the team was super, giving great life to the high moments and suitable dullness when required. It must be mentioned that Carmen’s death scene was exceptionally well executed. The lights were an excellent addition to this.
Sound was good mostly, on occasions I felt the ques were slow. The sound team could have addressed the issue with the band versus stage balance as they have a professional ear and could maybe advise or bring the band down if controlled through their desk. Minor issue but this is something I really feel is so important and certainly out of control of the performers.
Costumes for the production suited the overall vision. Suitable attire worn for the dance classes and so on. The light-up trainers were genius and so effective on the stage.
Overall this was a very enjoyable performance with some standout performances. The cast worked so hard to go outside their comfort zone and for this alone I commend each one of you. Dealing with so many “close to the bone” issues, you really approached them with great consideration, I feel many people watching could relate to at least one if not more of these issues. Again, KMTC continue to deliver top class performances to their audiences. Bringing them not only great shows but opening their eyes to new theatre.
Best wishes and I look forward to my return visit in the New Year.