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Review: Fame the Musical starring Mica Paris and Jorgie Porter at the Assembly Hall Theatre in Tunbridge Wells

By Molly Mileham-Chappell

It's a karaoke staple and a party tune favourite...

Plus we all know at least one person who's attempted that famous high jump in their time... and if you can't think who it was, it was probably you at that work Christmas party you would rather forget.

The song Fame, made famous by Irene Cara, is still just as uplifting as it was in the 1980s, and the same certainly goes for the musical of the same name.

Jorgie Porter in Fame the Musical. Picture: Tristram Kenton (3721695)
Jorgie Porter in Fame the Musical. Picture: Tristram Kenton (3721695)

The production first landed in London's West End in 1995 after try-outs in Miami, Philadelphia and Stockholm and received three Olivier Award nominations.

Now celebrating it's 30th year anniversary, the current UK touring cast have touched down in Tunbridge Wells this week.

The show follows the intertwining stories of more than a dozen young hopefuls trying to make it in the performing arts industry, attending the same stage school in New York City made famous by the 1980 film.

High kicks and Spanish flicks dominated the stage at the Assembly Hall Theatre, and the talented cast also featured some famous faces.

Jorgie Porter, best known for her work in Hollyoaks and I'm A Celebrity, was stunning as ballet dancer Iris, and had marvellous chemistry with Jamal Kane Crawford as Tyrone, a talented hip-hop dancer and choreographer, hindered by his poor upbringing.

Keith Jack may also be a name you recognise from the 2007 BBC show Any Dream Will Do, in which he finished second to Lee Mead for the title role in Andrew Lloyd Webber's West End revival of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.

He's come along way since those days with scores of leading roles to his name, and was strong in the role of Nick, a serious actor who appears void of all emotions in real life.

It is Serena, played by Molly McGuire, who pines for him and succeeds in showing off an impressive set of pipes over the course of two hours with her solos Let's Play A Love Scene and Think of Meryl Streep.

Carmen Diaz takes centre stage. Picture: Tristram Kenton (3721679)
Carmen Diaz takes centre stage. Picture: Tristram Kenton (3721679)

But the real stars of the show were Stephanie Rojas as the fame-craving Carmen Diaz and celebrity soul singer Mica Paris as misunderstood, slave-driving English teacher Miss Sherman.

Paris stunned audience members with her version of the heart-wrenching ballad These Are My Children, singing about her passion for her job.

It prompted several theatregoers, including my friend, to catapult from their seats to stand up and applaud her mid-performance.

Meanwhile, the phrase 'the best things come in small packages' could not be any truer for Rojas. She is a petite powerhouse who effortlessly commands stage presence.

Her transition from sexy star-in-the-making as she smashes the title song, to down-on-her-luck drug addict was flawless and believable, and she moved me to tears with her desperate rendition of In L.A., a poignant moment in the show when all her hopes come crashing down around her.

The UK Tour cast of Fame the Musical. Picture: Tristram Kenton (3721687)
The UK Tour cast of Fame the Musical. Picture: Tristram Kenton (3721687)

Praise must also be given to costume supervisor Lee Tassie in assisting with Carmen's plausible transformation to make her appear underweight.

As far as the set goes, the lit-up headshots covering the back wall worked well and helped enforce to idea of everyone having idols. It was impressive to see it change colours in one scene, creating the shape of the American flag.

Keith Jack as Nick Piazza and Molly McGuire as Serena Katz. Picture: Tristram Kenton (3721693)
Keith Jack as Nick Piazza and Molly McGuire as Serena Katz. Picture: Tristram Kenton (3721693)

It was a shame, however, that the yellow taxi cab we have all come to know and love did not feature in its full size.

Elements of the show may feel dated to audiences today, such as a comment made by Schlomo, played by the musically gifted Simon Anthony, that Carmen's lust for instant fame 'only happens in fairytales'. It's easy to feel that this notion is long gone in 2018, with the rise of reality television.

But the show as a whole rides along the crest of a nostalgic wave, evidenced by the women I saw dressed head to toe in neon, along with back-combed barnets, legwarmers and leotards.

The finale had the whole audience on their feet believing they too were going to 'live forever'. It was obvious they had come from miles around for a good night out, and that's exactly what they got.

Jorgie Porter as Iris Kelly and Jmala Kane Crawford as Tyrone Jackson. Picture: Tristram Kenton (3721683)
Jorgie Porter as Iris Kelly and Jmala Kane Crawford as Tyrone Jackson. Picture: Tristram Kenton (3721683)

DETAILS

Fame the Musical is on at the Assembly Hall Theatre in Tunbridge Wells from Monday, August 20 to Saturday, August 25. Book at assemblyhalltheatre.co.uk or call 01892 530613.

It will also be at the Marlowe Theatre in Canterbury from Monday, August 12 to Saturday, August 17, 2019. To book visit marlowetheatre.com or call 01227 787787.

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