Fame – The Musical

Feb 9 2018 | By More

★★★☆☆     Delivers on flair

Church Hill Theatre: Tue 6 – Sat 10 Feb 2018
Review by Thom Dibdin

There is plenty of talent, both on stage and off, in the Edinburgh University Footlights production of Fame – The Musical, up at the Church Hill Theatre to Saturday.

When you can hear it, this is a production which shines gloriously. However the orchestra really needs to get its own talents under control, as it has a tendency to swamp rather than serve the stage; while the production team doesn’t always have the courage of its own convictions.

Fame the Musical Ensemble. Pic Andrew Perry.

The main thing here, though, is telling the story of the group of students who attend to the Performing Arts academy in New York, from the moments of receiving their letters of acceptance through to their graduation as the class of ’84.

And in that regard, this is a bright, energetic production. Choreographer Caili Crow has the measure of her dancers who deliver her well-used motifs with flare. Director Caitlin Powell has strong ideas, too, such as the semi-immersive pre-show, with the cast throng in the auditorium before curtain up establishing their characters.

On stage, the quality of the individual performers – whether they are in the named roles or are simply part of the chorus or the dance ensemble – is never less than solid and, in a couple of instances, quite exemplary.

Characterisation is well-delivered through the musical’s big numbers and the main individual characters are suitably established. If Powell makes good use of the less-confrontational amateur version of the show, she doesn’t always get her actors to develop their characters as they might.

stands out

The pairing which stands out is that of dancers Iris – initially seen as aloof but discovered to be from a poor background, and street dancer Jack. Hannah Barnetson as Iris and Liam Bradbury as Jack, who can’t read, find a real way of expressing the evolution of both relationship and their individual characters through their dance performances.

Fame The Musical, Dancers. Pic Andrew Perry

They are well supported by the dance ensemble, it must be said. The trio of Anna Steen, Nicole Stanton and Lauren Robinson provide key ensemble work in which ever style Caili Crow throws at them. And Trevor Lin excels, particularly, in odd individual moments such as the opening scene where he is seen practicing in front of the class mirror.

The quartet of drama students work well together. Mimi Joffroy as tragic fame-obsessed Carmen, Adam Makepeace as child-star Nick, Alice Hoult as girl-next-door Serena and Matt Galloway as cocky comedian Joe create a strong feeling of the changing relationships in a classroom.

Carmen provides the backbone narrative of the show, and Joffroy gives a strong acting and vocal performance in the role. Her dancing is noticeably tentative, however, and is somewhat at odds with the self-confidence of her character.

establish the nuances

When it comes to the singing, Hoult as Serena has the benefit of having the show’s two best numbers. Having done much to establish the nuances of her relationship with the serious Nick, who is more intent on extending his art than having a college romance, she gets Lets Play A Love Scene.

Alice Hoult and Adam Makepeace. Pic Andrew Perry

Hoult’s account of the number hints at what she is capable of, despite straining against the orchestra to be heard. But she really shines through in Think Of Meryl Streep, conveying a real understanding of the words while nailing her phrasing and delivering with real power in what is the first outstanding performance of the show.

Galloway goes great guns in the ribald Can’t Keep It Down – providing plenty of outrageous sight gags. That the character lacks a serious backstory is down to this version of the script, but Galloway does what he can.

The whole production revels in its big set pieces – sometimes to the point of losing those interesting moments of transition. If that means that the roles of the teaching staff are slightly less accentuated than they might be, it does leave the very excellent Mhairi Goodwin with plenty of room in the role of English teacher Miss Sherman.

fierce passion

Goodwin hits her performance of These Are My Children with pin-point accuracy, creating one of those “something-in-the-eye” moments. She gets both Miss Sherman’s own feelings of inadequacy and the fierce passion she brings to her job. That, and a glorious delivery which never loses its nuance as it grows in its power.

Bright and celebratory, this is a production which delivers on flair and is great to look at, but doesn’t always find the subtlety available to it. Get a more even balance between stage and pit however, and it would be more than half way there.

Running time 2 hours 30 minutes including one interval
Church Hill Theatre 33a Morningside Road, EH10 4DR
Tuesday 6 – Saturday 10 February 2018
Evenings: 7.30pm, Matinee, Sat: 2.30pm.
Tickets: www.sparkseat.com.

Footlights’ Website: www.edfootlights.com.
Facebook: @edfootlights
Twitter: @eufootlights


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