The recently departed Muhammad Ali once said this of his own ‘fame’. “I wanted to use my fame that everyone knows so well to help uplift and inspire people around the world.”
Spotlight Theatre Company’s director Amanda Hall and her musical director Mitch Gamble and choreographer Jessica Royce have brought together a production of Fame -the musical – currently playing at Nottingham Arts Theatre that is truly uplifting and inspiring.
Uplifting and inspiring
Of course the energetic show is almost custom made to showcase young talent and it is placed in the fluffy leg warmer, hard work world. of a New York Performing Arts School in 1984. The storyline is based on stories of fresh auditionees at the school and their self discovery through the arts. The musical drama wouldn’t be a drama without conflict and bad things happening along the way of course. We encounter broken hearts, reality checks, bruised egos, rejection, drug abuse and the journeys of talented young creatives with their own fragile confidences all learning to cope with life in New York.
Fame- the musical seems to be about learning, not just in an academic way. but also about connecting with the individual within and without and sometimes struggling to survive or be liked. The journey can be an uphill one but, as in many musicals, there are some beautiful personal sunrises and sunsets to view along the way. Drama is an expressive form; musical theatre has the added advantage of lyrics and the power of the music to express emotions and to give them an airing that is often difficult just through a text alone. When a song is done very well the soul responds.
This is where this production scores highly as the levels of singing both ensemble and individual are very impressive. A couple of the numbers are especially good including Serena Katz (Poppy Cook) and her love song ‘Let’s Play A Love Scene’ and Carmen’s number (Charleigh Hurst) ‘In L.A’. The title song is performed by the ensemble as if their lives depend on it. We get a lot of truthfulness and expressive young bodies full of hope in the entire cast’s New York Performing Arts School rendition of ‘Fame’.
The energy levels are constant throughout the show and the scene changes very slick. The live musical is exceptionally good with fine levels of music supporting song. The discreet microphones help the cast speak and sing clearly in a venue that often has acoustical problems.
The choreography works well stylistically in each section. We never get the impression that collisions are immanent even though the stage is full to busting with the enthusiastic cast putting their hearts into every number. The final number ‘Bring On Tomorrow’ is buzzing with energy.
The darker elements of the show are well handled by those portraying the hurt characters. Maya Thompson’s performance of Tyreece Jackson is superbly believable and vocally confident. Alison Sheppard command’s the stage as strict teacher Miss Sherman but her performance is gracious enough not to be a scene stealer. The pre-interval ‘Teacher’s Argument’ song with Sheppard and dance tutor Ms Bell (Catherine Cunningham) is electric and followed by a full on ensemble number ‘Hard Work’.
And hard work is clearly what this Spotlight Theatre Company production of Steven Margoshes’ (music), Jacques Levy’s (lyrics) and Joseph Fernandez’s (book) show Fame – the musical is all about. The hard work is expressed as pure enjoyment on the Nottingham Art’s Theatre stage tonight and the audience respond in wild applause. As Muhammad Ali could possibly have said “They knocked us out!”
Fame runs until Sunday 17th July 2016.
Reviewer: Phil Lowe