Fame at the New Wimbledon
Put away your legwarmers, Fame has had a makeover. The show that launched a thousand careers has been brought bang up-to-date for a production that swaps shoulder pads for snapbacks and brick phones for iPhones.
Premiering at the New Wimbledon Theatre before embarking on a national tour, the 25th anniversary production of Fame revamps everything from the score to the wardrobe and is dripping with modern-day pop culture references. Fame follows the ambitious students of New York’s Performing Arts High School on their quest for success and that eponymous accolade. Each has their own obstacles to overcome, which some do with more success than others.
Gary Lloyd’s choreography is sharp and aggressively urban, breathing new life into the piece and creating choreographed sequences that wouldn’t look out of place on Beyoncé’s arena tour. An amped up, hi-octane score, with heavier beats and modernised vocals continually reminds us of our contemporary setting. It works well most of the time, however there are occasions where too much is being thrown and not enough sticks. Apart from a seriously impressive dance break, Dancing on the Sidewalk feels overly laboured.
Jodie Steele is mesmerising as the troubled teen Carmen, whose limitless desire for celebrity status sees her abandon New York for the even more glittering lights of LA, with tragic consequences. The superb cast also includes another member of the seemingly endless string of Strallen sisters (Sisi), who injects the right amount of girl-next-door innocence into the ballet dancing Iris, and Alex Thomas as Tyrone, the failing student with impossibly high kicks. But it is impossible to ignore Molly Stewart, who is hilarious and exceptional in equal measure, and whose powerhouse vocals on Mabel’s Prayer earned her the biggest applause of the night.
There’s a fluidity to Diego Pitarch’s set, where Hogwarts-style moving staircases leave the fledging performers at the top one moment, and the bottom the next; one of the many nods to the industry’s fickleness.
With an ending that veers slightly too close to hen party sing-a-long territory, the production treads a fine line between keeping the show’s famous energy and churning it into cheese. For the most part, Lloyd’s Fame stays on the right side and an outstanding cast will undoubtedly ensure a successful run.
Fame is on at the New Wimbledon Theatre until 1st March 2014 before touring, for further information or to book visit here.