Fame at The Shows Must Go On! Online
In the shadow of a looming potential second lockdown after the number of Coronavirus cases has risen again, The Show Must Go On! returns from its summer break to offer relief with yet more musicals. After a strong run in the first half of 2020, the series’ September launch gives us Fame: the 2019 Peacock Theatre production of the 1980 film’s 1988 adaptation. It’s a highly energetic performance featuring some strong acting, although it’s severely marred by a lacklustre plot and a barrelful of stockpile characters.
Being a child of the 80s, it’s hardly surprising that the musical reeks of the decade. It’s essentially yet another curiosity to feed the current nostalgia – long may it last – but one which brings with it the entire baggage of outdated elements. No matter how brilliant director-choreographer Nick Winston’s routines look, or how atmospheric Morgan Large’s sets and costumes are, when the base consists of wooden stereotypes – some of them uncomfortably racial – there’s not much one can do to save it.
The main offender is the plot, which for the first half is non-existent. The audience is introduced to random characters who have a song each, but other than occasionally establishing their “one single trait”, they don’t offer much. The second half, conversely, provides melodramatic stories which are rushed and don’t hold up well – not only because the first hour of the runtime is wasted, but also because there are too many threads and disappointing narrative resolutions.
Consequently, there’s nothing the cast can do to salvage this mess – and their roles are, due to the number of songs and characters – reduced to simplistic figures. It’s a huge pity since some of the performers are very strong indeed. Stephane Rojas, for instance, captures perfectly the potential of Carmen. One can see genuine emotion in a strong portrayal – it’s just a pity that the build-up in her storyline is so rushed that the payoff never really kicks in.
There are other, similar examples, and they all point towards the same issue: here we have a good cast with some skilled creatives behind it, but the whole ensemble can only do so much to keep their fingers on the cracks of a dated musical which has little going for it. The performance is good to see and hear, but requires one to turn off their brain.
Fame is available to view on The Shows Must Go On! YouTube channel from 25th September until 27th September 2020. For further information visit the theatre’s website here.