‘FAME – The Musical’ reviewed by Gordon the Optom

by June 14, 2018

‘FAME! – The Musical’ was conceived and developed by David De Silva from the book by Jose Fernandez. The lyrics are by Jacques Levy, and the score by Steve Margoshes. The title song ‘Fame’ however, was written by Dean Pitchford and Michael Gore.

The first stage production was in 1988, unusually, 8 years after the hugely popular film. The European musical debut was 1993 in Stockholm, followed by a dozen very different countries, including Mexico, Thailand and England.

This colourful, and much loved musical is being presented with gusto by Laughing Horse Productions, in Theatre 1 at the Koorliny Arts Centre, on Sulphur Road, Kwinana. The Theatre President, Adam Salathiel who is the Producer and Production’s Manager, is also the show’s janitor! Adam was pleased to have the skilled support of Marie-Louise Earle-Sadler as his production assistant to liaise with the cast.

The two and a half-hour (including interval) show, which is ideal for young teenagers (although there are a few mild adult topics, runs until 23rd June. The performances are on Fridays at 8.00 pm, and Saturdays at 2.00 pm and 8.00 pm.

 

The scene: Is an eminent High School for the Performing Arts in New York.

The set: was designed and impressively built by Adam Salathiel, Stephen Carr, Peter ‘Pear’ Carr, Cat Rippon and Amber Salathiel. It shows a school hall with a balcony along the rear wall with stairs at both sides. At floor level is a rear door, metal lockers and a ballet exercise bar.

The complex and colourful lighting was designed by Stephen Carr and Cat Rippon, and smoothly operated by Alex Thorburn. The follow spot was accurately aimed by Eleanor Weller. Stephen Carr’s sound design included several very realistic sound effects. More than a dozen of the cast were fitted with headset microphones, which with the very active dancing, occasionally managed to change channels by themselves, but after years of experience operator Alex Coutts-Smith still succeeded in staying in full control.

 

       At an audition to study the Performing Arts, the strict teacher, Miss Sherman (Samantha Ferguson) warns the enthusiastic applicants that it takes more than dreams to succeed. Shy Serena (Charlotte Williams) meets Nick Piazza (Lincoln Tapping) her heartthrob from a TV commercial, but he coldly explains that he is at the college purely to learn ‘classical acting’, not for fun or romance.

       The father-figure, Mr. Myers (Darren Bilston), is the drama teacher. He asks them to think about how a physical sensation can trigger an emotional response. The randy egotist, José ‘Joe’ Vegas (James Massey) describes his physical changes that happen every time he thinks of the beautiful Hispanic girl, Carmen (Eloise Kirk) in the dance class.

       A talented but ‘ethnic misfit’, Tyrone (Wyatt Gordon) comes to Carmen’s rescue. When Joe becomes upset, Heidi (Tijana Simish) dresses as an old lady and makes fun of him. During the rumpus, a posh new girl, Iris (Beth Tandy) arrives in the class and suggests more ballet; however, Tyrone insists that his new style hip-hop dancing should have a chance, as the other class members prefer it. Miss Bell (Nicole George) sees Tyrone’s potential as a choreographer, so she partners him with Iris! They have a love-hate relationship. Tyrone is happy to find that she is not really rich, but scared and they share a kiss.

       In Mr Sheinkopf’s (Darren Gould) music class, a virtuous classical musician Schlomo (Ellis Kinnear) is practicing his music with Grace ‘Lambchops’(Phil Bialas) and Goody (Em Bialas), when Carmen comes over and gives him some lyrics that she has written. Impressed, they let Carmen join their rock band, and daydream of seeing their names in lights.

       When Miss Bell overhears that Tyrone is having trouble with his studies, she offers support against Miss Sherman. At a rehearsal, an overweight dancer Mabel (Cat Perez – appropriate as Cata is Spanish for ‘munching’) says her weight problem is due to water retention and not with her eating donuts!

Will Tyrone ever graduate? What will become of Carmen? Is Nick gay?

      The other delightful cast members, who all acted and danced extremely hard include: Paisley (Paige Montebello), Sid (Robert Kett), Jeremy (Sage Palmer), Lauren (Lili Thoms), Edward (Matthias Zver), Rosealee (Mishka Miller), Jason (Joshua Vickery), Sam (Liam Gould), Maddison (Eibhlis Newman) and Hayley (Mikayla Wyartt). In a flashback sequence some girls see themselves as children (Amber Salathiel, Isabelle Carr and Sydnee Gould) starting on their artistic careers.

 

The energetic FAME orchestra was well balanced, with no particular instrument fighting for superiority. The band was conducted by the Musical Director, Liam House. The wonderfully spirited instrumentalists were: on reeds – Sean Williams, brass – Samantha Marley and Alisdair Vincent, guitars – Vlad Sturdy and Chris Heindl, percussion – Andy Vuori and Joelle Chen-Yeo and on keyboards – Rick Beermier and Kira O’Dell.

The vocal coach was Cat Rippon, and with such a large cast what a huge amount of work. As director, Cat and her assistant director Jodie Sweetman have sensibly chosen a cast with an impressive and proven track record; one that she knew she could rely upon. The extra special vocal performers were Charlotte Williams with a crystal clear angelic voice, Nicole George performed one of her solos with drama and anger, yet every word still had perfect enunciation. Cat Perez can really belt out any song in perfect pitch, managing to soar above the other two dozen singers in the chorus. Eloise Kirk and award-winning Samantha Ferguson gave two most emotional performances.

The costume co-ordinator, Rochelle Hayward captured the era’s styles and colourful flare immaculately.

Imaginative and talented choreographer, Zoe Jay, has treated us all to a variety of dance styles including stomp, tap, ballet, moonwalking, Spanish and lots more, all presented with pizazz. Wyatt Gordon’s dance routines were exceptional.

This is a vivacious show, filled with great singing, amazing dancing and a huge amount of fun. A show for the whole family.