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Remember the name?
by Brian Beacom

LEG warmers, bubble perms, broken hearts, broken dreams and a funny little bald bloke with glasses called Mr Shorofsky who taught the cello.

And shots of irate taxi drivers watching teenagers dance on the roofs of their battered yellow cabs.

That's the abiding memories from 80s TV series Fame, which became a playground favourite during its five-year run.

The TV series, a spin-off from Alan Parker's film, was aimed at an audience who couldn't get enough of the blood, sweat and tears produced by the precocious kids from New York's legendary High School for the Performing Arts.

Now, the spin-off from the spin-off, Fame The Musical hits town, with different characters but the same theme; hard graft and naked ambition plus sweaty leotards equals success.

"The show follows a group of eager and talented students from their audition through to graduation," said a spokesman.

"Audiences join the cast on a rollercoaster ride of ambition, excitement and sheer hard work as the kids try and make it at the world famous school.

"Fame takes audiences through the highs, lows, friendships, romances and sheer hard work that is daily life for the star-struck pupils in their quest for success.

"For some it is too much, but ultimately tragedy and triumph combine in a spectacular finale that has prompted standing ovations around the world."

It will be interesting to see if the 80s work ethic transfers into modern-day appreciation.

These days, many fame-hungry kids think all they have to do to become successful is to make it onto a reality TV show.

But having said that, it's unlikely that the audience for Fame The Musical will find their attention diverted by plot complexities.

There are updated mini storylines dealing with anorexia and confusion over sexual identity but this show is for the most part all singin' and all dancin'.

It doesn't delve to the analytical depths of A Chorus Line, where we were hung out to dry wondering if the show would ever get on the road.

Fame isn't about taking the audience to the edge of expectation. It's about feel-good fun.

Said one critic: "This show is all about the energy expended, which was astonishing.

"It was exhausting just to watch; by the end we felt as if we had just gone 12 rounds with Chris Eubank - and we were merely the audience."

There have been some criticisms. "Luvvies playing luvvies often makes for uncomfortable viewing," said another reviewer.

But no one can deny the sheer energy which the show produces, nor its success.

Fame The Musical has now established itself as one of the Britain's most successful theatrical productions.

The show has now been seen by over 3.5million people and grossed over £60million in the UK alone. Over 5000 hopefuls have auditioned for the show, which employs 100 people at any one time.

On any average week the cast can get through 1000 costume changes, 250 litres of water, 100 pairs of tights, 30 lipsticks and 10 pairs of legwarmers.

There have also been three Fame weddings amongst the cast and one Fame baby - so far!

While the 80s setting and ethos feels slightly dated, the appreciation of the sheer talent on stage is timeless.

THE actors playing the roles of dancers, singers and musicians all more than convince that they are genuine stars in the making.

The show's spokesman added; "Fame The Musical's continued worldwide success is inspiring new generations to don leg-warmers and leotards, dance on taxis and live forever.

"Always recruiting the latest, freshest talent the cast of over 30 electric performers have wowed critics and crowds alike as they rocket through phenomenal dance routines and unforgettable songs, including the legendary Fame."

The original High School for the Performing Arts in New York boasts Alicia Keys, Jennifer Aniston, Liza Minnelli, Al Pacino and Suzanne Vega amongst its graduates.

Its success has made it a model for a number of schools, including Sir Paul McCartney's Liverpool Institute for the Performing Arts and the Brit School in Croydon.

Madonna even auditioned for a role in Fame, The Movie. She was turned down.

Fame The Musical, the King's Theatre, September 6-11.



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