Fame the Musical: New Wimbledon Theatre, 24 November 2014

We’re gonna tour forever

Learning how to fly for Fame the Musical.

Fly me a river. Man over Manhattan. Fame the Musical.

With its gung-ho-let’s-go-for-it attitude Fame was never a musical of subtleties. Gary Lloyd’s new production lives up to type with all the performers squeezed into a small space at the front of the stage – very in yer face – but it’s an uneven affair. Much of the spoken text has been brought up to date (Rhianna gets a name-check) and the students are often busy chatting on i-phones, but the plot remains the same as do the songs, albeit in new arrangements.

There are some fabulous performances in this production. Landi Oshinowo belts out her numbers as the bookish Miss Sherman with a powerful but controlled set of lungs, Molly Stewart’s Mabel Washington brings the house down with her deliciously gospel inspired ode to the joys of eating and Sarah Harlington proves herself a fine comedy actress as Serena Katz.

Elsewhere, Alex Thomas torpedoes his legs about with a tireless display in the trickily tormented part of Tyrone Jackson and Harry Blumenau makes a sympathetic Schlomo Metzenbaum.

The leading laurels rest though with Jodie Steel. Faintly annoying at first with her screw-you spirit she slowly brought real depth and poignancy to the pivotal role of Carmen Diaz. Her descent into drug-addled degeneration was beautifully pitched and she had a top-notch singing voice to boot.

Diego Pitarch’s blocky set wasn’t very inspiring and some of the dialogue was excrutiatingly cliché – ‘I’m on a seafood diet’ yells Mabel at one point. ‘I see food and I eat it!’ The band were sharp on their little shelf at the back and while not all of the cast’s vocals and acting were great, they all showed boundless energy and enthusiasm, particularly in the hip-hop dance sequences.

Fame turned out to be quite fun, especially the second half, although the graduation song Bring on Tomorrow that’s dredged up just before the end gives schmaltz a bad name.

Fame runs at the New Wimbledon Theatre until 1 March 2014. Tickets can be found on the New Wimbledon Theatre website.

Gerard Davis

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