Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Fame - Sunderland Empire

Conceived by: David de Silva
Written by: Jose Fernandez
Directed by: Karen Bruce
Reviewed by: Ian Cain

Such was the success of the 1980 smash-hit movie, ‘Fame’, that it spawned a hugely successful television series which ran for five years and, subsequently, a stage production that made it’s West End debut in 1995 and has completed seven national tours since.

This latest production stars Beverley Trotman, who was catapulted into the public domain as a result of her success as a finalist in ‘The X-Factor 2007.’

Several modifications have been made in an attempt to make this a production that resonates with a 21st century audience. Gone are the big fashions and even bigger hairstyles of the 80s; gone are the familiar characters, including Coco, Leroy, Miss Grant and Mr Shorofsky; gone, too, are the familiar songs such as ‘Hi-Fidelity’ and ‘Starmaker.’ Instead, the show is set in the present day and in come a new set of students and teachers and brand new songs, although the iconic title song, ‘Fame,’ is still there.

The decision to update the show is a risky one and, unfortunately, is not a total success. Although the re-vamped production boasts sensational choreography, a stylishly simple set and moody, evocative lighting it somehow lacks substance and heart. Jose Fernandez’s script seems to be a ‘shopping list’ of issues that are merely introduced and never actually tackled; the characters (of which there are too many) are stereotypical and one-dimensional, and some performances seemed slightly stilted at times.

Beverley Trotman is totally under-utilised and rarely gets the opportunity to demonstrate her vocal prowess which is odd when you consider that it was probably a significant reason for the decision to cast her in the role.

During the performance, I noticed that quite a few members of the audience were eager to be given the opportunity to participate, yet they were denied the chance until the finale and the reprise of the signature tune. This musical number was the highlight of the whole performance and it epitomised the youthful exuberance and energy that should have been in abundance throughout.

‘Fame’ is a production that puts style before substance and suffers because of it. However, if you are prepared to forego artistic and dramatic content and are only looking for a show that is superficially appealing, then ‘Fame’ ticks the correct boxes.

Fame runs at The Sunderland Empire until Saturday 2nd May 2009.
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