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Fame the Musical

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Local 8-18 year-olds take over the big stage

My attention was grabbed as soon as the curtain lifted, with a sea of children age 8 upwards, all working so hard to impress. What followed blew me away! I couldn't believe the children had all been working for only ten days.

Fame was energetic and engaging, full of quick act changes to keep you interested. All the principals were great, but Carmen (Georgina Hendry) had star quality and handled a very difficult song In LA like a professional.

The beautiful voice of Edd Bird as Nick was pure magic, and great character work from Peter Sowersby as Joe also impressed me. All the teachers were great actors, giving performances way beyond their years. The Chorus, even though children (some of whom were only eight years old) were spot on.

The only criticism I have is that sometimes the stage looked crowded, and I would have liked to have heard Fame as the final song. Well done the summer youth project team for a sparkling show, that will remain with its participants forever.

Jayne Freeman , 09/08/10

Fame can be a difficult production; complex, with 1980s pop cultural references and adult themes at every turn. However, the exuberance of the young cast worked brilliantly with the musical's fast pace and projected an infectious optimism throughout, even in the darkest moments. The audience really were enjoying it, whooping in delight or amusement when their friends kissed or cracked a joke onstage or, in one particularly impressive case, performed a soaring back flip!

Whilst the play’s more explicitly adult moments had thankfully been toned down a little to suit the cast, a lot of the darker issues the script deals with, such as drug abuse, thwarted ambition and death, were still present to challenge the cast. The principals all rose commendably to these challenges, though, with the actresses playing provocative Carmen Diaz (Georgina Hendry) and the strict Miss Sherman (Rebecca Goldie) dealing sensitively and accurately with portrayals of characters with much more age or experience.

Jose Vegas’ (Peter Sowersby) unique charm, Nick and Serena’s (Edd Bird and Eve Norris) passion for acting and Tyrone and Schlomo’s (Myles Osborn-Banton and Sam Johnson) respective kinds of inner turmoil were portrayed with control when the roles demanded, but also a kind of unstoppable, bubbling energy that kept each new scene fresh and interesting. The teachers were all so very convincing that I genuinely thought they were played by adults for much of the play.

The large dance numbers were very enjoyable – for a production involving some tiny children, each was choreographed ambitiously and executed near-perfectly. Speaking as someone who always took days to learn dance routines for school musicals (and often forgot half as a result of stage fright) I was stunned that children as young as eight were able to learn and perform so many dances, even where there were several groups all doing different things on stage at once, in only ten days!

Perhaps I’m easily impressed and such are the New Theatre’s expectations for every show, but the professional quality of the singing, the dancing (and break dancing) and the persistent energy of the cast, suggested to me that these were some seriously talented young people. The play will be running at the New Theatre, on George Street, in Oxford, tonight at 7.30pm, and on Saturday 7th August at 2.30 and 7.30pm. If you don’t mind being unable to stop humming the title song under your breath for days, I urge you to go and see it.

Nehaal Bajwa (DI Reviewer), 06/08/10

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