Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Fame - Manchester Opera House

Fame by David De Silva
Director/Choreographer: Karen Bruce

Reviewer: Philipa Jenkins

And so the latest touring production of David De Silva's 'Fame' begins it's week-long run at Manchester Opera House and it is everything one expects. The show that is arguably responsible for the last decade's sharp increase in undergraduates enroling in Performing Arts courses begins once again with it's barrage of bouncy, enthused and deeply optimistic all-singing, all-dancing characters.

As the students begin their studies at the New York High School for Performing Arts, there is a notable abscence in the abundance of leg-warmers, upsetting perhaps for the audience members who turned out dressed for the occasion in day-glo knitwear and spandex. The advertised star of the show being Beverley Trottman, whom some may remember from 2007's 'X Factor' is not present as Ms Sherman, tonight being played by Claire Poyzer who does a wonderful job. Tyrone is also replaced by Scott Maurice, who certainly has the best vocal I have heard in this role a
nd outstanding dance capabilities. Other standout vocal performances from Nikki Davis Jones (Serena) and Holly James (Carmen) and a fantastic performance from Tarisha Rommick as Mabel.

The staging of the show was not at all conceited, was mostly kept simple and focused on the performers. There were some lovely moments during 'Dancing On The Sidewalk' and the tango-inspired routine following the interval.

The only thing that grates is the attempt at dealing with the troubled Tyrone's illiteracy and Carmen's wayward drug addiction. In an auditorium practically full to the rafters of working-class performing arts hopefuls, each of them reciting the script verbatim and deciding which character they will play when they grow up, it is so difficult for a feel-good musical such as 'Fame' to attempt to tackle moral issues successfully. Their efforts to update the lyrics; Nick Piazza's character aspires to be Dustin Hoffman, no longer Jason Robards, whereas Tyrone's Rap now boasts 'crack dealers' and 'coke snorters', can at times seem a little patronising to a youthful crowd of the 'Shameless' generation, and leaves the show perhaps in anger of diluting itself. Whether a musical from the 80's should now admit defeat and go back to it's original era remains to be seen, but attempting to appeal to everyone by taking the moral high-ground and focusing on the 'misunderstood boy from Brooklyn' does not unfortunately sit well with me anymore.

However, 'Fame' is essentially a feel-good show; the original optimistic musical; 'Bring On Tomorrow'; and as we left the audience dancing in the aisles; literally; it's certainly fair to say that perhaps this brand of light-hearted escapism is exactly what the public needs right now to momentarily forget the blizzard of credit crunch Britain. Providing, of course, that they can ignore the odd contrived 'gangsta-rap'....

Fame runs at the Opera House until Sat 7th Feb 09
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