Alan Parker’s 1980 movie, Fame, is the film that launched a million star jumps – and, throughout the 1980s, the television series captured the imaginations of countless more viewers. This musical by The Beyond Broadway Experience manages to take the essence of the concept and uncork it spectacularly in the splendid surroundings of the King’s Theatre. I should point out that this is an amateur production but, like many of the community shows here, it makes you want to find a better word than ‘amateur’ to describe what’s happening, because it’s genuinely dazzling.
The musical follows a cohort of successful applicants through their time at the New York High School of Performing Arts (a genuine establishment with incredibly exacting standards). There’s Tyrone (Rory McLeod), strutting and dancing up a storm, but hiding the fact that he’s dyslexic. There’s Carmen (Caitlin Tipping), bold, brassy and struggling to control a fatal fascination with the street drugs that keep her dancer-thin. There’s Nick (Reuben Woolard), already the star of a peanut butter TV commercial, but desperate to prove himself as a genuine actor, and there’s Serena (Melissa McNaught), a shy girl with a huge voice who finds herself a little bit fixated on Nick.
But perhaps it’s unfair to single out individuals – although Mabel (Sarah Kerr)’s singing is so impressive it gives me chills – because the whole company performs with such aplomb. Choreographer Murray Grant has somehow schooled one hundred and sixty (count them!) young actors into giving the performances of their lives – they jump, twirl and pirouette around the crowded stage with perfect precision and during the song Dancing On The Sidewalk actually burst off the stage and through the audience in a display of infectious enthusiasm that nearly lifts the roof off the theatre. This is a thrilling production and director Gerard Bentall should really take a well-deserved bow for helming this complex piece so expertly.
The show’s only on for one more night at the King’s but, if you can get seats for it, I’d advise you to grab them. If the pizzazz and energy from tonight’s performance could be bottled we’d all live an extra ten years – and with great big smiles on our faces too.