by Matt Batsman
FAME is on at Milton Keynes Theatre from 24th-29th June 2019
Imagine a show that could appeal to everyone. Imagine a delicate balance of smutty humour contrasted with beautifully heart-wrenching scenes of total emotional desolation. Imagine superbly choreographed, tight dance numbers with both bouncy show tunes and solemn, thoughtful ballads. Imagine pitch perfect musicians performing live on stage. Imagine an innovative and, at times, thought-provoking set on stage. And perhaps most importantly, imagine a massive hit of nostalgia as you’re transported back to the 1980s, leotards and all.
If any of these appeal to you (and it seems likely that at least one will) then FAME at the Waterside Theatre in Aylesbury is a must-see. Combining all the elements above into a whirlwind performance, seeing FAME on Monday (November 26th) was a delight. This was a carefully constructed masterclass in singing, acting and dancing, self-aware of its artistic nature thanks to a superb script. The addition of live trumpet, saxophone, piano, guitar and percussion playing on stage was a treat too, adding to the immersive feel of the whole show. Naturally, the stage performance bears great resemblance to the 1980s film version, but nothing can beat watching international superstars like soul singer Mica Paris effortlessly (so it seemed) holding a whole audience to ransom with her virtuoso solo singing on stage.
As phenomenal as she is, it would be unfair to just mention Mica. Keith Jack, formerly of the BBC’s Any Dream Will Do, impressed as the pretentious drama student Nick Piazza, as did Jamal Kane Crawford and Albey Brookes as resident naughty boys Tyrone and Joe. And It would be criminal for me not to give a special mention to Stephanie Rojas, portraying the troubled teen Carmen Mendoza. A part played with the perfect blend of entertaining arrogance and devastating solemnity, it was a truly stunning performance. The show also features former Hollyoaks star Jorgie Porter, making an impressive and mature onstage debut, and I was lucky enough to catch up with her a few days before the show to ask her how it had all been going.
‘I’m literally living my best life!’ laughs the vibrant soap-turned-stage star, as I ask her how it is to be dancing live in theatres around the country, ‘being able to run around a stage in a ballet leotard is what I’ve always wanted to do…that was my first passion, dancing.’
It’s wonderful to hear someone so thoroughly enthralled by what they’re doing, yet I’m surprised that doing the same thing doesn’t get monotonous night after night. Jorgie is quick to correct my presumption: ‘I watch the show every single night and it never gets boring…and I get bored really easily!’
I ask Jorgie what it is that’s keeping her entertained, even this far into a long run of shows. ‘Every night is a different night…the cast are so talented and amazing.’ I ask about the cast members, especially Mica. ‘Mica will take you to church,’ she says with a bright seriousness; it’s clear this is someone who she’s looking up to and, with a musical heavyweight like Mica, it’s hardly a surprise. Finally, I ask Jorgie what I can expect when I see the show.
‘If you come to see it, you’ll literally be blown away…you’ll be singing by the end of the night, I can promise you.’
Now, being on this side of having seen the show, I can say with total confidence that she’s absolutely right.