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Home > Reviews > Fame The Musical - The Irish Times

The Irish Times - August 26, 2010
Fame The Musical


Grand Canal Theatre

Fame The Musical: 'The stunning choreography in the opening scene is breath-taking, blending ballet, modern, folk, jazz and urban street dance'.
Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

ALAN PARKER’S iconic 1980 musical movie has become more, rather than less relevant in the past 30 years. Fame is the number-one aspiration in contemporary culture, and despite the sobering message of Daniel de Silva’s stage version (one of the students is seduced by the seedy side of celebrity and dies of a drug overdose, another fails to graduate because he cannot read), this new Irish production sees no irony in exploiting our cultural obsession with instant stardom.

Indeed, Jessica Cervi and Ben Morris, the unknown talents recruited through the public star-search broadcast earlier this year on RTÉ, appear for the first time on stage under crossed spotlights that write a clear X on the stage floor; an homage to the reality TV talent show that has nurtured this fixation with fame.

Judging by the reaction on opening night, Cervi and Morris were the chief attraction for younger members of the audience, whose parents were obviously unaware that the stage show would not be as anodyne as the TV programme. There are several sexual gestures and swear words, which could easily be omitted to tap into the younger audience demographic, but in its current form Fame The Musical is not suitable for the under-12s.

Meanwhile, for those who have no affiliation to the TV show, it is the ensemble that provides the highlight in this mostly excellent production. Gary Lloyd’s stunning choreography in the opening scene is breathtaking, blending ballet, modern, folk, jazz and urban street dance in a sequence that sets up the varying influences of Steve Margoshes’s score. Director Brian Flynn exploits the ensemble’s stamina and skill so that even exposition is accompanied by stage action – dancers move furniture, for instance, with rhythmic ease. Diction, however, is an enormous problem for most of the cast, and meaning in the narrative songs is often sacrificed to the over-eager pace of David Hayes’s musical direction.

But it is Brittany Woodrow’s show-stealing performance as Carmen Diaz that sets the necessary note of tragic irony for this impressive, if slightly cynical production (Sheila Ferguson, formerly of the Three Degrees, has added last-minute extra “celebrity” weight to the billing, but she seems under-rehearsed and her duet with Lisa Gorgin in The Teacher’s Argument is dreadful). As the most expressive and powerful performer on stage, Woodrow’s Diaz is finally undone by her own ambition: in the theatre, no one lives for ever.


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