Sunday, 27 June 2010

Fame the Musical ***

Fame the Musical
Conceived by David De Silva, Book by Jose Fernandez, Lyrics by Jacques Levy, Music by Steve Margoshes
 Regent Theatre, Melbourne, from April 2, 2010
Reviewer: Kate Herbert

Fame the Musical relies heavily on the success of the 80s movie and its title song, Fame, to attract an audience. Although it is a musical, its feature is the impassioned and high-energy dancing. The vibrant cast of young dancers seem to be pumped on hormones and caffeine. The scent of adolescent testosterone is in the air.

The songs are forgettable, with cheesy lyrics and uninspiring tunes – apart from Fame itself, which appears early in the show in an abbreviated version, then in its full form as a rousing curtain call finale. Dean Pitchford and Michael Gore wrote a spectacularly successful and memorable tune in Fame.

The problem is that Pitchford and Gore wrote none of the other songs. What happened to the original soundtrack songs: Hot Lunch, Out Here On My Own, Red Light, Never Alone? A fight over the rights?

Some tunes are saved by a couple of compelling voices. Let’s Play a Love Scene becomes a charming duet between Chris Durling, as earnest acting student, Nick, and Catherine Shepherd as his daggy, lovelorn admirer, Serena.

A flash of Fame magic appears when Jaz Flowers, as Mabel the over-eating, lusciously fleshy dance student, belts out Mabel’s Prayer with her powerful voice and vocal acrobatics. The crowd cheered, proving Flowers is a talent to watch. Rowena Vilar is a spunky performer playing Carmen, the parallel to the role of Coco made famous by Irene Cara while Darlene Love, playing Mrs. Sherman, has a thrilling voice.

The casting for this production appears to be linked with that well-known TV dance competition. Finalist, Timomatic, is a muscular and charismatic Tyrone, the illiterate hip-hop dancer, and 2009 winner, Talia Fowler, as Iris, bringing some lyrical, classical ballet moves.

Kelley Abbey’s choreography is certainly a feature. The entire company dancing the Argentine Tango is a vivid, sensual treat and you could power the city with the energy of the sassy dance routine in Hard Work.
The Fame finale is a highlight, with memorable dancing on the roof of a New York cab – pity it doesn’t appear until the final 3 minutes of the show.

Fame the Musical is let down by clumsy narrative and plotting, some lame dialogue and the loss of the award-winning, original soundtrack. But it is certainly a montage of great dance routines with a few musical high points, thanks to the band and a few good singers.

By Kate Herbert

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