“I’m gonna live forever…” say the lyrics from Fame, the Oscar-winning theme song written by Dean Pitchford and Michael Gore from the eponymous movie. Since its release in 1980, the film has inspired the making of the TV series, and subsequently, several stage productions in the US, UK and worldwide. Indeed, the musical is set to ‘live forever’ as it celebrates its 30th anniversary with a UK tour, kicking off at The Peacock Theatre in London.
David De Silva, aka ‘Father Fame’, creator and producer behind the original movie, continues to collaborate on the musical’s stage productions. The anniversary production brings together a host of talented artists to recreate the legacy of the movie with memorable songs (composed by Steve Margoshes, lyrics by the late Jacques Levy), while director-choreographer Nick Winston takes it to a new, refreshing level with effervescent performances.
The show opens with a group of aspiring students singing “Pray I Make P.A./Hard Work”, as they embark on a journey towards achieving their hopes and dreams at the New York City’s High School of Performing Arts. In the midst of all the hard graft, challenges, pressures, frustrations and self-doubt, romantic relationships develop between Carmen, the fiery, star-struck Latina and Schlomo, a gifted musician; Iris, the ballet dancer and Tyrone, who excels in hip-hop but struggles academically; also the shy Serena and her secret love for wannabe thespian, Nick.
Overall, the performances are good, and the dancing reflects the level expected of students at that stage in their academy training. One dance that stood out for me was Carmen and the girls dancing to a flamenco-inspired number with a hint of Liza Minelli’s “Mein Herr” in Cabaret. Headmistress Miss Sherman is portrayed beautifully by Mica Paris, who brought the house down with her moving rendition of ‘These Are My Children’.
When asked what makes a musical a ‘classic’ or ‘masterpiece’, De Silva says: “It takes time. It passes from one generation to the next. It translates from one language to many. It entertains an audience with both laughter and tears. It inspires youth with passion and parents with nostalgia. The brilliantly directed and choreographed 30th anniversary Fame UK production of the show by Nick Winston is the best I’ve ever seen”.
Indeed, this show makes you happy and sad, laugh and cry. Most of all, it brings home the reality of the immense work required to make it in the competitive world of show business. Even those who possess the so-called ‘triple-threat’ talent in singing, dancing and acting are not guaranteed success on stage and/or screen, and Carmen’s emotive song “In L.A.”, poignantly interpreted by Stephanie Rojas, is a heartfelt testament to the often bitter realities of show business. As someone who spent years taking dance classes on Broadway in New York, I can empathise with professional dancers as they battle for a part in a musical. In fact, the words “dance is the hardest profession in the world”, sang by a group of aspiring dancers, rings so true.
Frankly, I didn’t quite know what to expect, but found myself pleasantly surprised and impressed with the entire production. It isn’t a remake of the film, but rather an entertainment all its own, presented with both vigour and passion. Most of all, it resonates with young people of today who want and expect ‘instant’ success. I predict Fame the Musical will ‘live forever’, and hope it will serve as inspiration for generations to come.