Nothing more typifies the 1980s than Fame! The Alan Parker musical that was later a hit TV show that chronicled the lives of students attending the High School of Performing Arts. It inspired a generation of people wearing leg warmers and lycra. The film/television series was also quite hard hitting featuring storylines that dealt with homophobia, teenage pregnancies and suicide to name but a few. It also featured the iconic theme tune from Irene Cara that was a chart topper on both sides of the Atlantic. So an 80s geeky kid like myself was never gonna pass up the opportunity to watch the stage version at the Manchester Palace Theatre.
The stage version is loosely adapted on the initial idea from its originator and producer, David De Silva, who had always envisaged a stage version of the hit film and television series:
“When I conceived and produced the motion picture Fame, I always imagined that it would be the ultimate reality based stage musical.”
There may not be a Doris, Coco, Leroy or Bruno that many of you might be familiar with that have grown up with Fame during the 1980s, but this stage version still boasts a cast of kids who like those 80s counterparts are singers, dancers, actors all intent on making the grade at the High School of Performing Arts. Indeed, for those wanting a poor man’s version of the musical and television show may find themselves disappointed. For this is a production (aside from the theme song) that tries to forge its own identity.
Big stage productions and musicals are often a big draw for mainstream audiences. Institutions like Manchester Palace and Opera House know what works well with this kind of set up. It ticks all the prerequisite boxes. A hit show from the west end. Tick. Glittering cast that includes well known faces (in this instance Jorgie Porter, Mica Paris and Keith Jack). Tick. Acts that race through at break neck speed with infectious toe tapping musical numbers. Tick.
Everything about this production ticks the right boxes. It’s high octane, high energy and runs like a well oiled machine. The cast sparkle when they have to and it is no more evident in the choreography of this piece. A show about performing students would be something of a travesty if they were unable to sing and dance together in sublime unison. Thankfully for Tom Cox, the associate choreographer, you get a production that really comes to life when the cast is all together strutting its stuff.
What makes this a hugely entertaining evening of fun is that everyone is bought into this. They are not here to watch something that may entertain them, they know from the get go that this is gonna be entertaining. That’s why the crowd whoop, cheer, singalong and indulge in everything the likes of Fame has to offer.
Verdict: A fun fuelled frolicsome evening reliving the 80s phenomenon that was Fame. High octane musical numbers that will have you tapping your toes, clicking your fingers and humming every insatiable infectious beat on the way home!