Fame - Haymarket Theatre Review

Fresh from a run in London the 30th Anniversary production of Fame arrives at Leicester's Haymarket Theatre.
The company of Fame. Photo by Tristram Kenton.
The stage musical based on the 1980s film we follow the students of New York's High School for Performing Arts as they try to navigate through the highs and lows of young life. It may be some 30 years old but the themes of the show, such as romance, prejudice, literacy and sexuality, will always resonate with audiences.

Unfortunately, it's a slow burner of a piece. A weak script often holds everything back. The first act, in particular, is the weaker of the two, it doesn't really take off until the title number but from there everything improves. After the interval, the show only seems to grow in strength and the second act is far superior and much more enjoyable.

The music numbers are sadly forgettable too. The title song is a high point and it gives for a rousing finale but there are too many numbers that just don't hit the mark. I defy you to leave the theatre being able to hum any number other than the title song. Much like with the script, the second act numbers are superior to the first act.

For what the show lacks in its script and music the work done by the creative team is commendable. Nick Winston is a tremendous director and his work saves the piece. His choreography is spectacular and excellently performed. Morgan Large has done a great job with the design too. It's visually great to look at it. The use of younger photos is effective. The lighting seemed a bit wayward at times but that could be down to it being their first night in a new venue.

The hard-working company are the productions saving grace. Jorgie Porter is an excellent dancer and actress. She moves with such grace and poise in the role of Iris. She's matched by Jamal Kane Crawford as Tyrone. Jamal is an astonishing mover. He acts well too and is especially affecting the scenes towards the end regarding his characters inability to read.

Jorgie Porter (Iris) and Jamal Kane Crawford (Tyrone). Photo by Tristram Kenton.
Josie Benson gives a powerhouse of a vocal as teacher Miss Sherman during the number "These Are My Children". It was her first night in the role and she fits into the company perfectly. Molly McGuire nails the emotions, in particular, the shyness, of Serena superbly and sings well. Molly plays off Keith Jack as Nick effectively.

Simon Anthony gives a star turn in the role of Schlomo. He's undoubtedly West End quality. He acts, sings, dances and plays the piano to such an accomplished level. Serina Mathew gives a brilliant performance understudying the role of Carmen. Carmen is the most tormented character leading to substance abuse and Serina effectively played the journey of her character.

Albey Brookes is often the comic heartbeat throughout in the role of Joe. His comic timing and energy are delightful to watch. He clearly relishes every moment on the stage and that comes across in his performance.

In a strong ensemble Hayley Johnston (Mabel), Spencer Lee Osborne (Mr Myers) and Courtney George (understudying as Miss Bell) all have their standout moments.

Musical director Tim Whiting and the 4 off-stage musicians give a great sound. Aided by Louise Beade, Alexander Zane, Tom Mussell and the forementioned Simon Anthony who all act and play on stage.

The production sadly is a hit and miss. It's enjoyable and effective and is more than worth catching. The famous title song includes the lyric  "remember my name" and we'll certainly remember the great performances even if the show itself is a bit forgettable.

Rating: ★★★ - tremendous performances and design save this otherwise lacking show.

Fame continues at Leicester's Haymarket Theatre until Saturday 26th October - for tickets visit https://www.haytheatre.com/whats-on/fame-the-musical. The tour continues until the end of November for future venues visit http://fameuktour.co.uk/. Check out the trailer below.

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