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Expect to be amused, beguiled and distracted.

Fame the Musical
Adam Spiegel Productions
New Theatre Cardiff
March 28, 2007

Nostalgia can be a perilous word in theatre, acting as the bedding soil for the likes of Webber and Mackintosh to sprout their perpetual seeds of musical performance. Producers have recognized society's veneration for sentimentality, mixed with a romantic desire for tragedy, exhilaration and aspiration. They know that audiences will flock to productions that provide a sense of escapism and enthrallment, acting as a visual anesthetic for the senses, against the discomfort of daily life. Fame the Musical is a classic example of a genre of theatre that despite its flimsy plot and precarious dialogue draws packed audiences like moths to a glitzy flame every night, even on a mild March Monday in Cardiff.

Fame has a long and gorgonzola soaked past that has touched every starry eyed child from the 80's to the present day. I for one will openly admit to spending hours in the family living room (which of course was cornered off like a murder scene) on a Saturday afternoon rehearsing and choreographing funky dance routines to my treasured Fame LP. The concept was originally chartered by David de Silva whose passion for the New York High School for the Performing Arts combined with I suspect an inkling that he might touch a youthful nerve led to a seemingly timeless creation. We had the film and then the TV series that sparked the upsurge of the unforgiving leg warmer, lycra combo. Then in 1995 Fame the Musical hit the London stage and has continued to entertain, excite and energize a UK audience of over 3 million.

Like many of today's modern musicals Fame has a disappointingly frail plot that lightly brushes over contentious subjects without reaching any full-scale assault. There is an essence of multiculturalism, united with proposals of sexual discovery and drug abuse, but with the exception of the rather hurried loss of a young girl's life to drugs all other issues are left inconsequential. Instead we observe snippets of a select group's life with each scene supported by a sassy musical number. There is very little scope for character association or substantial development, so like that pretty page 3 model this show relies on aesthetic satisfaction rather than profound gratification. However, the physicality of the production is immense with each cast member stretching either their voice or their body to the maximum.

As you would expect, being the ‘kids from fame' this is a big team effort making exclusive commendation both difficult and superfluous. Every audience member will have their favorite as each character strikes a different chord, resulting in a harmonious display of what it takes to succeed in the arduous world of showbiz camp.

In short this production does everything it says on the bottle, it is both bracing and entertaining. It has succeeded in making itself a thriving lycra revolution in its own right, leaving the film and TV series in the archives. The title number has become more of a pop tune than a musical number, but that is all part of modern progression, and with the vast amount of screaming children in the audience on Monday night it's clear they're doing something right. If you're a child of the 80's don't expect to be magically carried on a journey of recollection but expect instead to be amused, beguiled and distracted – all of which sound pretty good to me.

 

Reviewed by: Amy Stackhouse

 

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