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7 August 2012

Learning to play the Fame game

Fame The Musical, at the Sunderland Empire - South Tyneside - l-r Sian Thurkettle (13) from South Shields, Michael Mather (18) of South Shields, James De Lauch Hay (18) of Cleadon Village and Anna Senior (15) of South Shields.

By Vicki Newman

FAME is the name of the game and Stage Experience is the aim.

The Sunderland Empire’s summer school project is tackling the show which follows a group of students at New York City’s High School of Performing Arts.

And the talented youngsters, have been getting a taster of the hectic schedule theatre schools are famous for, after putting the show together in just 10 days.

Creative learning manager Gemma Clough, from Jarrow, said: “Things are going fabulously, there’s a really high standard of talent this year and the show is going to be fantastic.

“We’ve got a wide range of ages in the show, from nine to 25, but the level of dedication from every single one of them has been amazing. Even when we’re having breaks from rehearsals they’re sat going through their lines.

“I think people are going to be blown away by the talent.”

The show, which is on at the Sunderland Empire on Friday and Saturday, includes a host of South Tyneside talent.

Michael Mather, from Harton in South Shields, has just finished a Performing Arts course at Newcastle College.

The 18-year-old is starring in the show, based on the 1980 film of the same name, as Spanish acting student Joe Vegas.

He said: “I was a last minute step-in for the show but I’m really glad I got involved because I’ve had a great time.

“I’ve never really done a comedy role before so it’s been a challenge. I’ve done the show before but now that I’m playing this character I’ve been pushed out of my comfort zone a bit. It’s been a great experience.”

James de Lauch Hay is taking on the role of Tyrone Jackson, a talented but dyslexic hip hop dancer from a poor background.

The 18-year-old, from Cleadon, who is moving to London in September to study acting for television and film at Arts Educational Schools on a full scholarship, said: “Coming into a role outside of my comfort zone was a challenge but I’ve had a great time with it.

“It’s been a lot of hard work but it’s been thoroughly enjoyable and rewarding. Rehearsals have been very intense.

“I’m really looking forward to the show and I know it’s going to be brilliant.”

Rosie Diaz, 18, from Whitburn, is moving to America in October to study at the American Musical and Dramatic Academy. She’s playing Miss Sherman in Fame, a strict old-fashioned and academic English teacher.

She said: “This is the biggest role I’ve ever had and I’m really excited about it.

“I’m really enjoying the character and I like being in a teacher role rather than a student. I usually play the rude one or the funny one in shows so it’s nice to play a more serious role. It is hard but it’s helping me to become more versatile.

“I love the show, it’s my favourite one, so being part of it is just an amazing experience.”

Former St Wilfrid’s RC College pupil Anna Senior, 15, from The Nook, South Shields, is part of the ensemble.

She said: “It’s been really good. This is the first time I’ve done one of the Stage Experience shows but I think I’ll be coming back next year because I’ve really enjoyed myself.

“I’ve made a lot of friends and had a lot of fun.”

Mortimer Community College pupil Sian Thurkettle, from Chichester, South Shields, is also part of the ensemble.

The 13-year-old said: “It’s really good, I did the show last year and couldn’t wait to do another one.

“It’s an amazing experience and I can’t wait to get out on stage.”

Director Steve Wooldridge said: “I’m really chuffed with how it’s going, we’ve got a great cast, a great theatre and a great show.

“This year’s group are just a really lovely bunch of people and the talent is just incredible. I never cease to be amazed by it.

“I think people are going to be surprised at how good this cast is.”

Also lending a hand is South Shields director Gareth Hunter, who has been involved in every Stage Experience show since it began seven years 

Fame is on at the Sunderland Empire on Friday and Saturday. Both days have a matinee show at 2.30pm and an evening performance at 7.15pm.

Tickets range from £9 to £17 and the theatre is offering a two for one deal on top-price tickets for Friday’s matinee show.

To book tickets, go to or call 0844 871 3022.

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