Ticketmaster Summer in Stages

Fame

Conceived and Developed by David De Silva
Book by Jose Fernandez, Lyrics by Jacques Levy and Music by Steve Margoshes
Royal & Derngate, Northampton, and touring
(2009)

Production photo

Fame - it's no doubt a great commercial vehicle that keeps on rolling on despite the 80's roots that made it such an old school favourite. However, this stage musical version never reaches the dizzy heights of the original TV version.

Despite the familiar characters and even more familiar title song, this show never really connected with my own musical tastes. I say my own, because there were plenty of teenage girls (and their mothers) who seemed to absolutely love it.

Or perhaps it was the dancing that they fell for. It was an impressive mix of modern and ballet: slick, quick choreography that was executed with great energy and commitment. However, a musical cannot rely solely on its dance numbers.

Too much of this version of the Fame monopoly lacked the warmth and character that the TV series and in some way the film (just) managed to pull off. This is perhaps not just the fault of the production team. Jose Fernandez' script and Jaques Levy/Steve Margoshes' score is very weak and lacks any kind of impact. Carmen Diaz' tribute song was laughable; one failed to connect or 'feel' for the characters.

The direction also felt tired. Karen Bruce's ideas for staging felt very unimaginative - too much of the acting relied on 'playing' the feeling rather than connecting with it. Once again Lars Bethke' choreography managed to salvage the reputation of this touring production.

The cast did have their moments. Tarisha Rommick's comic stereotypical 'over weight dancer' Mabel, who can't stop eating, had conviction and timing. Nikki Davis Jones also created a star-struck Serena Katz, singing perhaps the best song out of a a disappointing score.

Beverley Trotman, starring as Miss Sherman, had her moments, yet it was disappointing to not be able to hear her do what she does best. One wonders whether this was really the best choice for her rather than providing the producers with welcome publicity. It would be interesting to hear more of the X-Factor star in a more demanding vocal role.

Whether this is worth catching is debatable. For those wishing to witness warmth and depth, character and emotion (as well as good music), this almost certainly won't deliver. However, if any kind of Fame experience will make you happy then I am sure you will enjoy it as much as the teenage girls behind me.

"Fame" plays at the Royal & Derngate until Saturday April 25, 2009

Reviewer: John Johnson