REVIEW: Fame – King’s Theatre, Glasgow

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Music: Steven Margoshes

Lyrics: Jaques Levy

Book: Jose Fernandez

Director: Gary Lloyd

The question is can a musical based upon a 1980 movie and its spin-off TV series still pull in the crowds 34 years on? The original audience for Fame, this teenage tale of life at the New York City High School for the Performing Arts are, well let’s be kind, rather mature now. But this is a musical about the pursuit of fame and fortune in the performing arts and in these celebrity hungry times surely it taps into the current mania for stardom at any cost?

The audience here at the King’s Theatre are certainly a mixed bunch, with a healthy number of original fans of the show and equal amounts of young kids interested in the performing arts, it certainly taps into these demographics, but does it successfully entertain both? The story here has been updated firmly to 2014, there are iPads, android phones and contemporary cultural references littered throughout, but this attempt at modernisation doesn’t quite hit the mark. The music has a firmly 80s vibe which often seems at odds with both the choreography and the design.

Current audiences come to musicals, especially those that are dance-based, with high expectations of the choreography, almost weekly TV exposure to troupes like Diversity and Flawless whose originality and inventiveness is now seen as the standard for dance, makes it hard for us to be impressed by the lacklustre work on show here. That said, the cast work hard to make the most of the material they have.

Establishing a connection to the characters in any musical is essential to its success and requires either time or clever writing to achieve it. The characters here seem lacking in strength and are somewhat one-dimensional, resulting in a lack of empathy with them. The cast again try their best with the material on offer but it fails to do them any justice.

Credit must go to the band who kept the music crisp and the volume level high throughout. The cast too deserve praise for the energy they maintain throughout. Stand-out among them are Harry Blumenau as musician Schlomo, Alex Jordan-Mills as actor Nick, Landi Oshinowo and David Haydn as the eager young hopeful’s teachers and for comic relief Molly Stewart and Joseph Giacone as misguided dancer Mabel and would-be comic Joe.

Nothing highlights the fickle nature of fame more than the announcement today that this hard-working cast will end their run here in Glasgow, four months shy and 13 venues short of the original planned tour schedule due to poor sales. It would seem that Fame has had its day and if ever there was a cautionary tale about the performing arts then it was this one.


Runs until 28 June 2014

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