I’m Gonna Live Forever – Fame!
Phil Hopkins, Arts & Travel Editor
It was the show that spawned a generation of starstruck would-be’s and, 30 years on from when it first tried out on the Miami stage, Fame is back in all its leg warmer glory.
And if ever there was a show that’s as relevant now as it first was in 1988, then surely David De Silva’s musical must surely be it?
As a minimum it has become iconic – largely thanks to Dean Pitchford and Michael Gore’s title song – but, despite all its 80’s connotations, it still represents the essence of youthful ambition, desire and the need by teenagers to somehow leave an indelible mark on society.
The theatre was crammed tighter than Leroy’s spandex – although Leroy becomes Tyrone in the stage version – and the majority of the audience were re-living their Friday nights all those years ago, when De Silva’s TV show invaded our homes bringing all the excitement of New York, 42nd Street and Downtown Manhattan into our comparatively dreary lives.
However, Fame is not a conventional musical. It is more a pastiche, a patchwork quilt made up of lots of little stories that sometimes struggle to thread together into a singular coherent piece.
It begins in 1980 as new recruits to New York’s School of the Performing Arts arrive to begin their three year courses in music, dance and drama, ending as they all graduate. In between there are the individual stories – Tyrone struggles with illiteracy, Mabel with her weight. Iris is the ‘posh’ girl, taken to school by her limo driving father, only he is the chauffeur, and so on.
However, Fame was among those early ‘modern’ musicals that truly spoke to youth and it continues to stand the test of time because it is energetic, driven and, at its core, is full of emotional, youthful angst; the X Factor on speed.
However, whilst it is, at times, ‘bitty’, some would argue that that is also its strength because the sub plots change quicker than a dressing room dance support, keeping the various story lines moving and the audience – always eager for instant gratification – suitably satisfied.
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The powerful voice of Mica Paris as Miss Sherman, filled the auditorium effortlessly, but I could only hear my singing teacher, Mrs Mackay, berating me tirelessly until I stopped splitting my lyrics in half by breathing in the wrong place. Mica Paris kept singing about the chil……breath…….dren!
Whilst ever there is an appetite for fame, for the need to be remembered, to be paid millions or to be ‘papped’ by the world’s army of celeb photographers, then Fame the musical will always find a new army of followers.
There was an air of anticipation in the audience but as my grey haired friend looked at me and this balding, middle-aged man looked back, we realised that we had been told one of life’s great lies and that we weren’t going to live forever.
Nevertheless, we still had a ball and danced all the way to the car park, stopping short of continuing our choreography on the roof of the Mini parked in the NCP!
Until Saturday 1st September 2018
I’m Gonna Live Forever – Fame!, 28th August 2018, 9:58 AM