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Fame - The Musical

Vibrant, electrifying and full of energy is probably the best way to describe the musical "Fame", currently running at The Grand Theatre in Leeds. Many of us, of course, will remember the TV Series with affection, and obviously this stage production is based on this, and also the film that was made in 1980 and directed by Alan Parker.

Fame follows the lives of a group of students attending New York's High School for the Performing Arts. "Fame - The Musical" takes the audience through the highs, the lows, the romances and the ultimate triumphs of the star-struck pupils in their quest for success.

It's the Fame school with the famous motto: fame costs, and right here is where you start paying. The show charts the success and the struggle, the enthusiasm and the talent of the pupils from differing backgrounds and cultures, from auditions, through four years of hard work to graduation. Romances and friendships develop as the story makes a social statement especially relevant to today's youth.

Non-stop, high-energy routines with a full cast of over 35 electric performers make FAME a breathtaking stage show. Fame will take you on a roller coaster ride through the highs, the lows, the romances, the heartaches and the triumphs of the star-struck pupils in their quest for success at the world famous High School for Performing Arts in New York.

FAME - THE MUSICAL began life in London in 1995, where it played for two years at the Cambridge Theatre. This production subsequently went out on a national tour, and has been playing ever since with the demand for the production growing and growing. Standing ovations have greeted the show everywhere. Nominated for two Olivier awards (Best New Musical and Best Choreography) this production has been seen by over one and a half million people in this country alone. The show is currently back in the West End for the fourth time, and at the Cambridge Theatre. In 2002 FAME - THE MUSICAL has reached the pinnacle of its success when for the first time the show has a production continuing in the West End (transferring to the Cambridge Theatre where it all began), while a second production is on a full year of national touring.

In recent British theatre history, few shows have had productions both in the West End and on tour simultaneously - among those that have are Cats, Les Misérables and The Phantom of the Opera - which proves that FAME is indeed a musical phenomenon! No one can fail to be dazzled by the dynamic dance routines, the explosive vitality and high-octane performances of the 35 strong cast drawn from Britain's finest young talent.

It is difficult to highlight the stars in the show, as there were so many good performances. However, I must mention a couple who stood out for me. Firstly there was Leila Benn Harris playing the part of Carmen Diaz and secondly Rachel Hale as Serena Katz. Both of these were superb, Leila for her dancing and singing and Rachel for her acting and singing. James Haggie was extremely funny as Joe Vegas and Michael Howell in the part of Nick Piazza played very well opposite Rachel Hale.

But in this show it has to be the choreography that stands out above all. The dancers routines were superb, with excellent movement and formations. The set was simple but effective and able to be easily changed from the rehearsal areas within the school of performing arts to the street scenes.

Many of the songs are unknown; the only exception being the title number, which Leila Benn Harris performed superbly! However, the other numbers are all easy listening and a couple are reprised towards the end of the show; "Let's play a love scene" and "Bring on tomorrow", which then stick in the memory on the way home from the theatre. But it is the dancing that will long be remembered by anyone seeing this show!

John Burland
Dine Direct Theatre Reviewer .


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