Friday, 27 July 2018

REVIEW: Fame the Musical at the Palace Theatre, Manchester

After a not so successful production of Fame in 2014, produced by Bill Kenwright, the return of the show was a slight surprise to many in the industry. Selladoor productions haven’t got the best reputation here at pocket, with their productions often slated as cheap and amateurish. However, the bar has been raised with this new production. 

Fame tells the story of a new year beginning at a performing arts school and the challenges they face going through that. Unfortunately, the writing didn’t allow the storylines to really develop very much and a lot of things were skimmed past but the elements that were explored were good and had the audience wrapped around the productions little finger. 

An element that fills me with dread are the two words ‘Actor Musician’. I have seen far too many productions where this is used as a way to avoid spending money and it hasn’t worked but this was very carefully done. Only a few actors play instruments but it’s within the context of the show and showcased the actors amazingly. 

The cast, as a generalisation, aren’t the best actors in the world. This was a slight disappointment in the show; accents were all over the place, diction wasn’t clear enough for us to understand speech and emotion was lost. This, however, doesn’t apply to Stephanie Rojas (Carmen) and Simon Anthony (Schlomo); both sold the relationship to the audience wonderfully and by the end we all had tears in our eyes. 

Stephanie Rojas was a highlight in this show, her Carmen was cocky and arrogant but also had a lot of heart and inner struggle. Killer vocals from her too; having the title song isn’t easy (especially when its one everyone knows!) but she nailed it and is a performer you need on your watch list. 

Along with this, Simon Anthony as her love interest Schlomo was beautiful. Quirky and nerdy but also very cute and adorable at the same time. Stunning vocals from him too, your eye is drawn to him as soon as he arrives on stage.

Another stand out performer was Molly McGuire as Serena; even though she didn’t have a lot of stage time, when she was there it was magical. A future Elphaba right here! 

Keith Jack leads the show as Nick, although I admire Jacks talents as an actor he feels slightly out of place in this show. For someone with a very traditional musical theatre voice, it doesn’t totally fit with the style of this show. 

Jorgie Porter, known for her performance on Hollyoaks and Dancing on Ice, plays Iris in the production. Her acting was slightly bland and artificial but she is a beautiful dancer and pulls the role off. 

Over all, the cast has a fantastic buzz and energy around them; Albey Brookes (Joe), Hayley Johnston (Mabel) and Jamal Kane Crawford (Tyrone) all add so much to the story and really brighten up the show. The ensemble also are very strong, hard to pick stand outs but I couldn’t take my eyes off Morgan Jackson and Daisy Edwards. 

Having pointed out the not so great things about this show as well of the good, none of this really mattered because by the end everyone was on their feet and we all had the best time. You leave feeling emotional, buzzed and ready to dance! 

This is a brilliant, feel good production with a stella cast. One of the top touring shows at the moment, be sure to catch it when it comes near you. 

Fame! Baby, you’ll remember this show! 

Review by Mark Swale 

Rating: ★★★★

Seat J4 Stalls, moved to A29 due to the restricted side view seat | Price of ticket: £38.40 (J4), £50.40 (A29)
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