It’s not just certain Premier League football teams that have been having unprecedented unbeaten runs lately. The New Wimbledon Theatre has found a winning formula, with which it has been scoring hit after hit. Fame is the latest musical to enjoy a week-long run at the venue as part of a national tour, and last night there were very few seats that did not have bottoms on them – not a bad house for a Tuesday! Nor did the bottoms stay on their seats throughout the show. The audience were on their feet for the finale, as the rhythm of the dance got them in its sway.
Set in the New York High School for the Performing Arts during the early 1980s, Fame follows the fortunes of a motley group of students from audition to graduation as they undergo their rigorous training in music, dance and drama. This of course is the perfect vehicle for some knock-out displays of high-energy dancing and singing by an excellent cast. I was going to say uniformly excellent, but even more excellent are stand-out performances as the feisty but fame-obsessed Hispanic, Carmen, as the lewd and provocative Joe, who loves to wind people up, and as Tyrone, the physically magnificent but illiterate hip-hop dude from the ghetto. And the audience had an especially soft spot for Mica Paris, the soul legend who plays the matriarch of the school.
As for the story line, well, what do boys and girls do when they are thrown together at an establishment like that? But this academy is a school of hard knocks. The price of fame is plenty of blood, toil, tears and sweat. And there is a cautionary tale. Very few can make it to the very top, but one of the girls, so obsessed with becoming famous that she is lured by false promises to try her luck in Hollywood, ends up at the bottom and dies of a drugs overdose.
Apart from that one dark note, however, this musical is a joyous experience. From the witty script to the accomplished band, I enjoyed every minute of it. And so, it was plain to see, did the audience.