reviewed at the Regent Theatre, Ipswich on 29 October
Fame is a dangerous as well as elusive will-o’-the-wisp. What does the word really signify? Pre-eminence or notoriety? The pinnacle of achievement or merely its distorted shadow?
Wrapped in a dance-musical about aspiring students at an 1980s performing arts academy in New York, this is the story of young people with hopes and dreams all too aware that most of them are training only to be unemployed.
This new touring production is fast-moving with spirited direction and choreography by Nick Winston. The young cast radiate commitment and create thoroughly believable characterisations as we focus on personal and professional dilemmas.
On the surface Carmen (Stephanie Rojas) has everything going for her. She a talented lyricist as well as performer, but becomes hooked on drugs to enhance her performance.
Budding composer Schlomo (Simon Anthony), lovelorn Serena (Molly McGuire), show-off Joe (Albey Brookes) and chip-on-shoulder Tyrone (Jamal Kane Crawford) are all excellent, as are Hayley Johnston’s Mabel and Keith Jack’s career-dedicated Nick.
Mica Paris as Miss Sherman, a disciplinarian who really does care that her students will have a future and Katie Warsop as dance instructress Miss Bell are the main adults with whom we engage.
Ultimately, this is a show which relies on its younger performers for its impact. They don’t let us down.
Four star rating.
Fame runs at the Regent Theatre, Ipswich until 3 November with matinées on 31 October and 3 November. It is also at the Milton Keynes Theatre between 24 and 29 June as part of an extended national tour.
(reviewed at the Gordon Craig Theatre, Stevenage on 18 August)
Theatrical cliché number one – the show must go on!. And go on it did for Catherine Lomax’s summer in-house production, even though Simon Anthony suffered a foot injury during a particularly energetic dance routine as Cosmo Brown, necessitating an extended interval, roughly where one would have occured in a (now old-fashioned) two-interval production.
Craig Armstrong, who had been playing the two smaller roles of Sid Philips and the diction cach, had played the part previously and took over script-in-hand for the rest of the performance. Overall it’s a lavish production, complete with rainfall for the title number and finale, which moves slickly from scene to scene (there are 21 of them).
The script follows the Betty Comden and Adolph Green screen-play with Nacio Herb Brown and Arthur Freed’s songs, most familiar to most of us from the Gene Kelly film. Khiley Williams’ choreography has th right 1920s influences – this is a story which centres on the Hollywood change from silent to sound films – and she has deised some good production numbers as well as the iconic “singin’ in the rain”.
Central to the story is stage actress Kathy, who is invested by Katie Warsop with just the right mix of steel-backbone determination and disarming femininity. She also dances extremely well and has the voice to match. As script-writer Don Mike Denman is perhaps a better dancer and actor than he is a singer, but his engaging ersonality makes up for this.
Screech-voiced Lina, the glittering Hollywood star with a temperment to match and completely non-existent vocal charm, is brought to full theatrical life by Cameron Leigh. Lomax’s production has a clever use of film which both sets the period and reminds us of the double artificiality of the whole set-up. Chris Keen is in charge of the (unseen) orchestra and the lighting design by Pete Kramer adds to the illusion.
Singin’ in the Rain runs at the Gordon Craig Theatre, Stevenage until 27 August. There are matinée peformances on 20, 25 and 27 August.