Wednesday, 16 May 2018

“Fame” by Greasepaint Productions
Loughborough Town Hall
I’m sure that everyone knows the story of this musical but here goes…..
A group of young people, from vastly different backgrounds, have just been accepted for a five year course at the prestigious New York High School of Performing Arts. They soon find out that it is not all just singing, dancing and fun. It entails a lot of hard work, frustration and occasional disappointment.
The story looks at a number of students, their private and academic lives and their relationships. This is not just a bunch of musical pieces joined together by a flimsy story. There is love and drama, joy and sadness all played out with great feeling. They take on subjects such as homosexuality, prostitution, drug addiction and young death. They do not skirt around the issues but confront them head on.
For a reviewer who has seen this musical several times now, what is most refreshing is spotting the new members of Greasepaint, and there are several here. Backing the newer members up are some very accomplished regulars to the Loughborough stages. And I am sure that the opening is a little different as well.
Yvette Healey, one of the new faces, plays Carmen with a great deal of Latin sassiness, in contrast to the lovelorn Serena, played by Gemma Landers. Both ladies have great voices.
Serena is in love with Nick, played by Jonny Painting. There are highlights for all the main characters and for Jonny it’s one of my favourite songs from the musical “I Want To Make Magic”
One of my favourite young actors from the area is Joe Harrison who is perfectly cast as Tyrone. I’ve always highlighted Joe’s technical and artistic dancing abilities and these are spotlighted, along with his confident and strong vocals as Tyrone. Both are no better highlighted in the track “Dancing On The Sidewalk”. "Fame" is all about the dancing and Joe has several styles of dance that he performs with ease and style, and just watch the shaping of his hands.
Another of my favourites is Chris Wilson who never fails to bring a smile to any audience’s face and as Joe, he plays to his strengths as a wonderful comedy character actor. Hear the sauce in his version of “Can’t Keep It Down” and watch out for his choreoghraphy in Act Two!
Hannah Underwood plays Mabel, the ever hungry student who has a lovely gospelly solo spot in "Mabel's Prayer"
Harriet North plays Iris, the ballet dancer who is paired with Tyrone. there is something really peaceful and relaxing watching ballet, and that's the feeling you get watching Harriet dance.
Josh Hill plays Schlomo, the student who is living up to his violin playing father's fame, and nice to see a local actor show his musical skills as he plays violin and keyboards on stage. So many times I've seen obvious miming with instruments so this is really refreshing and an eye opener to Josh's talents.
Ollie Lewin plays Goodie, the trumpeter of the music student trio, and Ollie gets to play to his strengths in singing and his obvious comic talents as well as some very energetic dancing.
Emily Canham plays Lambchop, the drumming third of the music students, and again playing her drums on stage, a nice surprise.
Anna Rowlands as Miss Bell the dance teacher and Katherine Pledger as Miss Sherman the English teacher clash over Tyrone's studying which results in a wonderful duet between the pair. Katherine also gets to belt out another one of my favourite songs from this show "These Are My Children"
Tania Smith is the drama teacher Mrs Myers and completing the faculty staff id Alan Clarke as the music teacher Mr Sheinkopf.
Choreography is in the very capable hands of Jeanette Patrick-Cooper who has done a great job on this one, especially when you see how many different styles of dance are featured in "Fame". It does help though having a great ensemble of very capable dancers who I know have worked their socks off on this show.
Musical Director for this show is James Stevens and like Jeanette, the music genres are as varied to match the dances
There are some great songs in this musical, "Let's Play A Love Scene". the latin tinged "There She Goes", the big numbers for me "Bring On Tomorrow" and of course the title track, sung at the end complete with a big yellow New York taxi.
There were a few wobbly notes in some of the songs where some of the singers didn't quite hit the higher notes, but these are just very minor notings on my part
"Fame" is a big show with a big cast, big dance numbers, big songs and big characters so it's only right that such a show has two big Directors in James Nelson and Gareth Wynne, who makes his debut as a Director after spending so many years being a Musical Director and actor.
Wonderful colourful lighting design (Kevin Cutts) and a clear sound design (Rob Temperton) and some lovely costumes.
The energy in this show is so infectious no one seems to show a bead of sweat or even look out of breath, and they never miss a beat even when dancing and singing at the same time. A truly professional performance with a cast of very talented all rounders whose names will live forever within local theatre.
“Fame” is at Loughborough Town Hall until Saturday 19 May 2018 but tickets may now be limited due to the popularity of this theatre group.

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