Fame ‘the musical’ at the Opera House

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They say that you can’t keep a good thing down and that is certainly true of Fame- The Musical. Based on the smash hit film of the same name that hit the screen in 1980, the brand name has spawned a highly-successful TV series and a stage version that first saw the light of day in 1988. And now the residents of Buxton and surrounding areas can see the latest production at the Opera House.

For those few who have never heard of the musical, it tells the story of the Class of ’84 at the School of Performing Arts. The tale carries the audience from audition to graduation and documents the students’ trials and tribulations and their developing relationship with the teaching staff.

There is the expected cast of characters – the extrovert, the introvert, the boy struggling with his sexuality, the girl with body issues, the talented artiste who struggles with addiction, the talented musician wishing to come out from the shadow of his successful father, the dyslexic student and an aspiring ballet dancer who feels held back by her apparent privileged background – all led by a disciplinarian Principal who ultimately has a heart of gold.

Albey Brookes is well cast and has all the comic timing to play the brash and cocky (and near the knuckle) Joe while Keith Jack (best known for finishing runner-up in the televised competition Any Dream Will Do) does a superb job as a potential serious actor and is given the opportunity to showcase an excellent voice.

Hayley Johnston shows her comedic talents and dancing ability as Mabel and Simon Anthony is very believable as he becomes a father figure to his fellow students. Jamal Kane Crawford is an energetic Tyrone who allies some excellent dancing with a sympathetic performance as a troubled teenager. He also forms a great partnership with Iris (Jorgie Porter – formerly of Hollyoaks and Dancing on Ice). Porter is developing into an accomplished stage performer (although it is difficult to believe her character’s claim that she has never been kissed!!)

Josie Benson gives a powerful performance as Miss Sherman and she is ably supported by Katie Warsop, Spencer Lee Osborne and Duncan Smith as the teaching staff.

But the stand out performances come from Molly McGuire and Stephanie Rojas. McGuire gives an excellent performance as the nerdy Serena who is desperate both for fame and to find her own Romeo. She also gives a beautiful rendition of the poignant” Let’s Play A Love Scene”,

Rojas is the ultra-talented but highly troubled Carmen and she holds the audience in her hand as her life journey reaches its inevitable end. Her performance of” In LA” is worth the price of entry on its own.

Overall this is a vibrant production performed by a talented cast and the choreography is at times so full of vigour that you can be exhausted just watching but there is real pathos in the slower more, reflective moments. Benson is able to bring out the best of the tear-jerking “These Are My Children” and the uplifting “Bring on Tomorrow” reinforces the optimism that young people can carry all of us forward.

The ultra-critical would say that Fame gives little chance for the characters to be given real depth and there is certainly some substance in that. But there was enough in the characterisations for the audience to be swept along in their joy and tears. This is a highly enjoyable production and the reaction of the audience at the final curtain reflected the enjoyment given.

Fame continues its run at the Opera House until November 9th and has a running time of approximately 2 hours 30 minutes including interval.