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Fame the Musical 30th Anniversary Tour Palace Theatre

Review by Ian Robert Hills.

The stars were out in force but not just in the skies over Manchester but at a special opening performance of Fame the Musical’s 30th Anniversary UK Tour at the Palace Theatre.

Theatregoers had the opportunity to see the stars from the entertainment world being interviewed and photographed on the red carpet before the show.

Fame the Musical stars Keith Jack (Any Dream Will Do, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat), Mica Paris (Love Me Tender, Chicago, Mama I Want to Sing) and Jorgie Porter (Hollyoaks, Dancing on Ice).

Based on the 1980 iconic film, Fame the Musical is the international smash hit sensation following the lives of students at New York’s High School for the Performing Arts as they navigate their way through the highs and lows, the romances and the heartbreaks, and the ultimate elation of life.

This bittersweet but uplifting triumph of a show explores the issues that confront many young people today: prejudice, identity, pride, literacy, sexuality, substance abuse and perseverance.

The show features the Oscar-winning title song, originally sung by Irene Cara, and a cast of outstanding actors, dancers, singers, and musicians who play the young hopefuls who transform from star-struck pupils to superstars.

We open with the song I Pray I Make the Performing Arts and the auditions for winning one of the prized places at the world-famous New York High School for the Performing Arts. We get to meet the winners who pass the audition addressed by the principle Mr Myers (Cameron Johnson). Then we follow the lives of students as we see the paring up of the various students from the music, dance and drama departments.

Fans of the movie will be disappointed to hear that some of the original songs, such as Hi-Fidelity, Desdemona or Starmaker, are missing. While some new songs, including a couple of rap numbers, go some way to helping update the musical, it’s only when the famous Irene Cara title track, Fame, is heard, halfway through the first act, that the song and dance numbers really come to life.

Molly McGuire gives a likeable performance as besotted acting student Serena with Keith Jack as Nick the musician. Stephanie Rojas is everything Carmen should be; sassy, fiery and very confident, delivering the Oscar-winning Fame song in her role as Carmen.

But the real star of the show was Mica Paris, as Miss Sherman, whose powerhouse performance of These Are My Children had the audience on their feet midway through the show.

Jorgie Porter, as Iris in her stage debut, really comes into her own at the end of term show with an electric dance number with Jamal Kane Crawford in his role as Tyrone the dancer with dyslexia.

With the comedy provided by Hayley Johnston, Mabel’s sing-song in the locker room and also with Joe (Albey Brookes) playing the part of Romeo wearing an enormous codpiece in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, you will never take an actor in a codpiece seriously again.

Strong performances came from Simon Antony, Schlomo, Alexander Zane, Goody, Louisa Beadle, Lambchops, Kate Warsop, Miss Bell, Cameron Johnson, Mr Myers, and Graham Hoadly, Mr Scheinkopf.

The set, by designer Morgan Large, is largely made up of the High School’s black and white illuminated pupil portraits which have you looking for cast members. The set used the full stage of the Palace Theatre with stairs and gantries. Credit goes to lighting by Prema Mehta, wonderful 1980’s costumes by Lee Tassie and sound design provided by Ben Harrison.

The packed-out theatre audience were on their feet along with the cast singers and dancers for the singalong of Fame at the end of the show

Fame the Musical will indeed live forever. Not to be missed.

Currently touring the UK. For details go to atgtickets.com

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