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Cape Town Today Review

Fame - The Musical
Cast :
Neels Clasen, Shelley Meskin, Keeno-Lee Hector, Jo Redburn, Relebogile Lebo Mabotja, Niki Rowan, Mara Louw, Craig Norris, Carlo McFarlane, Mike Huff, Lisa Melman, Dale Cutts, Natasha Helene Staples, Charles Bougeunon
Director: David Atkins
Venue: Cape Town International Convention Centre
Performances: Tue - Sun until 31 Jan 2004

Fame may not last forever, but in the audience's mind, the experience no doubt will. The show captivates from the first solitary spotlight to the final blinding light extravaganza.

Think about Fame and one conjures up images of dancing and singing, but the musical provides so much more. It has a lovely storyline with many entertaining sub plots. You can share Tyrone's frustration and anguish at his illiteracy and relationship across the class and cultural divide. Shed a tear over the tragic tale of the talented Carmen's drug addiction. Smile over the heart warming and tender romance between Serena and Schlomo, and laugh at the raucous antics of Joe Vegas, a natural source of Viagra if there ever was one.

The young cast is truly amazing, delivering dancing, singing and acting performances of the highest calibre. Dance routines explode with passion and electricity; songs are sung with golden voices laden with emotion and the acting is very realistic. The cast accurately portray authentic American dance students from diverse cultural backgrounds, along with all the stereotypes one would expect. It is also most pleasing to hear distinctive Spanish American, African American and Jewish American accents, and not the usual stereotypical southern drawl local actors slap on for any American character. The only exception was Marla Louw Thomson, who portrays the fierce but caring teacher Miss Sherman. Although her singing was faultless she just couldn't shake her South African accent in the dialogue.

“Fame” takes place at the La Guardia High School in New York City. To create the school atmosphere a simplistic, but very realistic double story set with movable parts and staircases is used. This enables the cast to quickly move props around during scenes to create classrooms, lockers, notice boards, music rooms and dance studios.

The choreography is very impressive, especially during the dance sequences when the full cast is on stage. The routines vary greatly, from classical to modern to break dancing, and are performed with great skill and enthusiasm, particularly by leads Jo Redburn (Carmen Diaz) and Carlo McFarlane (Tyrone Jackson).

The lighting effects in Fame are spectacular and creative. At the beginning the stage is shrouded in darkness, then, one by one, the character are highlighted with spotlights until the entire stage is covered in lights. Lighting is also successfully used to enhance the different dance routines, using softer tones for the ballet and fast, colourful lights for the contemporary routines. On one occasion the lights are even synchronised to a fast paced drum set!

Contrary to conventional endings, Fame finishes on a high note. After the traditional bow, the centre of the set opens, out rolls the yellow cab and the cast delivers a final, high energy performance of the Fame theme song.

This South African-Australian collaboration is nearly flawless and will surely be one of the highlights of the year.


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