Fame - a story of growing up, self-discovery and teenage love as the students and teachers discover what life is like at the High School of Performing Arts. Wing It bring this to the Albany Theatre Coventry as their Easter production in a version that stretches the original setting.
Hannah Roberts’ direction is strong with clear character understanding and heightened use of the Albany's particularly wide stage. Connor Clifford’s choreography contrasts the realistic direction, but nevertheless creates strength in the ensemble numbers, with a particularly nice moment in Dancin on the Sidewalk. A very quick side note must also go to Ashley Kirk for his graphic design work. The logo and programme for the show delivered a real professional feel to this amateur production.
Rory Beaton’s lighting adds vibrancy to the stage with some striking images, notably in the song Fame, there were a number of blackouts which did break up the pace, however the imposing industrial set creates a rocky feel to this classic school set musical.
Casting for the show was strong with a well characterized and focused ensemble backing some feisty leads. Ashley Clifford and Libby Simpkins have a striking connection as Schlomo and Carmen and their rendition of Bring On Tomorrow in act one, is impressive. In the latter part of the show, the reprise of Bring On Tomorrow is both powerful and eerily emotive.
Simpkins' is ideal for the role of Carmen and, having seen this young actress perform previously, it is noticeable how well cast she is in this production. In L.A is a pure show stealer and Simpkins leads this vocally with ease and heaps of raw emotion. This scene is one of the strongest visually as the direction takes a turn and places one of the dancers - Elena Fulea - as a symbol for Carmen’s downfall behind the glaze - it is honestly striking and heightens the sense of desperation.
Other stand-out performances include Star Lydster-Cochrane as the antagonist Ms Sherman and Grace Bend as Ms Bell in their aggressive rendition of The Teacher's Argument. Nick Jones is also well cast as the agitated, dyslexic Tyrone and Jones' dance ability is clear throughout the show, showcasing his talent as he led the ensemble in Dancin On The Sidewalk. He is paired well with Kate Doran as Iris, another strong dancer, making for incredibly realistic performances from the duo. The strong comedy of Alex Howarth's Joe Vegas and Kirsten Hamilton's Mabel Washington juxtaposes the more serious numbers, allowing for a comic lift to each scene.
Finally, a perfect relationship is found in the faces of Maeve Dolen as Serena and Nathan Routledge as Nick Piazza. Their chemistry is natural and in classic numbers such as I Want To Make Magic and Let's Play a Love Scene, their vocal ability shines. They are the supporting leads, but are fantastically strong and their scenes are definite moments of excellence.
With a production like Fame, there is real scope for taking a risk with the design. This production team have done this, and presented an authentic and excellent show. Congratulations to all on another successful production.
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