Who doesn’t want to be famous? Fame the Musical is all about that desire to be recognised, to be known, to not fade out of existence when death takes hold. While based on a film from the 1980s, that desire is just as relevant today. “I’m Gonna Live Forever” is the refrain of our protagonists - talented teenagers aspiring to a career in the performing arts, who while facing the challenges of growing up, must also bare their souls in their respective professions. Musicians, actors and dancers alike come together to share their stories in the new West End adaptation of the beloved film, TV show and musical.
Outside of the famous eponymous theme song, the songs of the musical themselves are not as well known. After the amusing auditions where the promising youngsters are barely given five seconds to show their worth, the opening song “Hard Work” sets the tone for the rest of the first act. The starry-eyed students, with their heads full of dreams, are, if you excuse the pun, given their fifteen minutes of fame in songs like “I Want to Make Magic”, “Can’t Keep it Down” and “Let’s Make a Love Scene”. Stephanie Rojas is a particular standout as Carmen, leading the lunch jam sequence in the celebratory “There She Goes/Fame”. Jamal Kane Crawford as Tyrone plays the troubled and angry African American teen stereotype perfectly, but this is where Fame the Musical starts to show its age. Other stereotypes in the musical such as the fat funny girl, the class clown and the sensitive artist are outdated, sometimes insulting and not very original.
The second act is the stronger of the two, where life and their ambitions do not always go to plan. Simon Anthony as Schlomo is excellent here, as is West End debut Alexander Zane as live-trumpeter and comic Goody. The actors get their chances to shine in numbers like “In LA” and “Dancing on the Sidewalk”, which although not especially memorable, again allow for some strong performances. Mica Paris steals the show with “These Are My Children”, describing her motivations behind the assumed toughness of this homeroom teacher.
Whilst the final song of the musical is a moving one, we as the audience are indulged in the encore, where the whole cast brings the crowd to their feet to join in the eponymous theme. It’s a chance to let go, sing, dance and have fun with some of the most talented youngsters on the West End this season.
If you’re looking for an enjoyable evening, Fame will leave you dancing the night away. You might not remember the minutiae, but you will remember how it makes you feel. It’s a musical of hope, of dreams and as succinctly put by Billy Porter at the Emmy Awards: “of love”. It makes you think of your own goals, your own aspirations, as these young people are similarly trying to make their mark on the world – life does indeed imitate art. As a university of STEM students, these may not be totally relatable to dancing or singing on Broadway but may just give you the groove in your step to start the day right.
- 3 stars