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Review: Fame, Sunderland Empire

The wannabe stars of Fame are teasing the boards in Sunderland. Stewart Carr went along to see the show

****
Fame the Musical poster
Fame the Musical poster

As the guitar riff of its title-track rang out in a blaze of glory, a horde of thumping, energetic dancers tore across the stage.

The pace of director Gary Lloyd’s production is high-octane and the dancing is par excellence. Fame is a dynamic show of young ambition at its most invigorating.

But beyond its catchy lead tune, anyone familiar with the original film or 1980s TV show might struggle to recognise the stage musical version.

The gritty story of the lives of wannabe stars trying to make it in Manhattan was watered down in a lighter plot that made way for more singing and dancing. It was hard to believe in the squeaky characters jostling for centre stage and trying to work out who was who among the dozen performing arts students only added to the confusion.

Undoubtedly, the leader of the pack is the fiery Carmen Diaz, played by Jodie Steele, whose soaring high vocals and tough-girl attitude gave her the privilege of singing “Fame”.

Elsewhere, talented dancer Tyrone is at loggerheads with his English teacher as she struggles to help him to read.

The reason for his attitude is lost in the bright lights and street-dancing that form his worthy riposte to any questions from authority. It is worth mentioning that Alex Thomas, who plays Tyrone, is an outstanding dancer. His ballet duets with fellow student Iris were one of the highlights of the show.

Slightly less engaging was the love story of acting students Nick and Serena.

Their sickly sweet romance includes the gooey ballad Play a Love Scene, a song so sugar-coated even the biggest fans of love songs might be put off.

Still, it’s the powerful, soulful singing and acrobatic dancing that drives Fame and what keeps the audience enraptured right until the glittering finale.

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