Friday, 15 July 2016

"Fame The Musical" by Spotlight Theatre Company
Nottingham Arts Theatre.

As the song goes..."remember my name" and there are several names you'll remember from this show. If you've seen the film "Fame", then forget it because the musical is so much better.

It's the story of a group of students from the New York School of Performing Arts in 1984. They study drama, music and dance but there is drama away from the school as well, mainly provided by Carmen Diaz, a talented but fame obsessed dancer who is hooked on drugs but comes to a sticky end.

The musical covers several gritty storylines and I was pleased that Spotlight did not do the abridged version of the musical because I've seen the abridged version and I just felt that there were obvious holes in the storyline. Not so here I am pleased to say.

It's a more complex musical than it seems with its varied musical styles and varied choreography. Taking in street, ballet, tap, ballroom and contemporary, the actors were put through their dance paces, Some appeared to take to them more naturally than others but the choreography was no walk in Central Park here. A brilliant job of choreography by Jessica Royce.

Matty Collins, as Nick Piazza, the young actor who had had a taste of fame through a TV commercial, (Nick that is not Matty) turned in another very confident performance. Having heard Matty sing before I know what a good voice he has so I think it may have been a touch of nerves at the start with "I Wanna Make Magic" but he absolutely nailed the rest of the show. His confidence as an actor and performer is contagious.

Poppy Cook (Serena Katz) has such a lovely voice and such control in such numbers as "Let's Play A Love Scene".

I was really pleased to see Joe Smith get a major role, and what a role in the wise-cracking over confident Joe Vegas. This really brought out the comedy styling in both Joes, and he looked like he was enjoying every second of playing his comedy persona.

Charleigh Hurst (Carmen Diaz) was just brilliant and you really felt for her when she sang "In L.A.". An emotional young actor who has so much more to give, and I can't wait to witness the giving.

In the musical the role played by Maya Thompson (Tyreece) can sometimes be a male version called Tyrone, but i absolutely loved the feisty female version of Tyrone. Tyreece has a bit of baggage stopping her from graduating but she battles through and comes out on top. And we all love a fighter don't we? You'll love Tyreece and you'll love Maya and her rap.

Grace Hodgett-Young gets to show off her amazing soulful vocals as Mabel in "Mabel's Prayer", as well as that beautiful smile she has.

Sophie Petruccio gets to play the shy dancer Iris and also shows us some lovely ballet moves also.

I've changed my mind about the part of Schlomo because he used to be a bit nerdy, a bit of a geek, but James Murray played down that image and presented the part as a caring, studious, as well as fun character. James is one of those actors who, seemingly, can do it all. he sings, dances any dance he is given and can portray various characters to great effect. I've said in the past that he was an all rounder and this role again confirms it.

Playing the rock chick in Schlomo's band is Ellie Monterosso and I reckon if she had a drum kit to go with those sticks, she'd be able to tear the place up.

Completing the music students, and the band, is Goodman "Goody" King, played by the "hands in the air shoulder-shimmying legend" Lucas Young. Always one to look out for because he just puts a smile on your face, and boy can Lucas dance! He, like James and several others in the cast, took every dance style in his stride with great fluidity and boundless energy.

The teachers were played by Khaled Thompson (Mr Scheindkopf), Sean Goodwin (Mr Myers), Catherine Cunningham (Ms Bell) and Alison Sheppard (Miss Sherman). There was some fristy moments from Ms Bell and Miss Sherman as the dance and English teachers respectively which resulted in two stand out scenes in "The Teacher's Argument" and the highlight for me "These Are My Children".

This song has always been my favourite from this musical and Alison just blew every other version I had heard out of the water.An amazing power ballad vocal dripping with passion and emotion.

A wonderfully energetic supporting cast/ensemble who i won't mention all by name as there were so many but please let me pick out two that just seemed to shout out to be mentioned.

Eva Sheppard once more for her sheer enjoyment of performing and versatility of dance, and someone who i also noticed at the Spotlight Showcase a couple of weeks back but didn't know his name, Ben Gregory is in many of the ensembles but the effort he puts into the choreography just draws you to him.

And so to the production team of Director Amanda Hall, Choreographer Jessica Royce and Musical Director Mitch "I just wave my stick and music happens" Gamble. What a trio of talent. The seven piece orchestra sounded just like the original soundtrack from 1980 and I loved it. Crisp, clear and tight. the choreography was the same.

Brilliant lighting designed by Tom Mowat and you only really notice the follow spot when it doesn't...follow that is, so a mention to Simon Carter and Peter Hodgkinson for doing a brilliant, and not easy job of highlighting the actors, as and when required.

A minimal set which complemented the musical and didn't detract form the dancing or acting, in fact i didn't even notice it that much, which is a compliment because it was naturalistic.

This musical will have you dancing on the sidewalks home and singing the title track as well as the very infectious, hands in the air, lighters out singalong "Bring On Tomorrow". It;s a wonderful story of hope and fight and underdogs who win as well as a load of great fun, laughs and dance.

"Fame the Musical" is on at The Nottingham Arts Theatre until Sunday 17 July 2016.

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