Jorgie Porter talks Fame...

The new UK tour of smash-hit West Ender Fame The Musical dances into the Midlands this month. What’s On caught up with Jorgie Porter, who’s starring as ballet dancer Iris in the new production, to find out more...

One of the world’s best-loved musicals, Fame explores the tumultuous teenage years of students at New York’s High School for the Performing Arts. Many of us already know how the youngsters fair with the ups and downs of life, thanks to the sensational 1980s pop-culture movie that inspired both the musical and a television series. But if you’re as yet unaware of the joys of Fame The Musical - or maybe you just wish to experience them again - then this particular tour is not to be missed, as it marks the production’s 30th anniversary.

It would be understandable if the musical’s past successes weighed heavily on the shoulders of the current cast, but for former Hollyoaks star Jorgie Porter, who’s set to make her stage debut with this tour, the overriding feeling is one of sheer excitement: “I literally can’t wait for this to happen - this will be my stage debut and I want it to start right now! I love Fame. I think it’s incredible, and when I listen to every song I get goosebumps because it’s just such good music. I’m super-excited - I really can’t contain myself, to be honest!”

Taking on the role of Iris in the musical means that Jorgie will be returning to her ballet roots: “I was dancing from the age of three and have trained in classical ballet for almost all of my life. While I was in Hollyoaks, the dancing element became more of a passion than a job, so I’m even more excited to do a U-turn and get back to ballet in this role. It was my dream from when I was a kid, and not many people get to actually fulfil that, so when the opportunity came along I grabbed it. My career took me on a little journey somewhere else, but the fact I’ve been able to come back to this is amazing. I’m just so excited!” 

On the surface, Jorgie’s character in Fame seems like the stereotypical ‘rich girl’ you see in films and musicals; spoilt and stuck-up. Thanks to recent reality TV appearances, it will be evident to the general public that Jorgie herself has little in common with the character she’s playing: “I want to change roles and be taken out of my comfort zone. Doing reality shows has been a really good thing for me in revealing to people who I truly am. I think I’m very lucky in that way because it’s not an opportunity many people get. It also shows all the different roles I can play, and that I’m not typecast in any way. I like the fact that I can go into any role and step out of myself, but also that the public know me for me. Fame shows all different aspects of performance, and Iris is not the musical-theatre type; obviously I still sing in the production, because it’s a musical, but she’s more calm and lady-like. I, on the other hand, will be singing my heart out in the car, pretending I’m in a music video!”

Jorgie loves the fact that she relates so closely to the show as a whole: “I can definitely relate to Fame, from growing up in a dance college. You might think that the singing. dancing, constant performing and rehearsing that the Fame characters do in their day-to-day lives is quite far-fetched, but it really isn’t. If anything, people were swinging from the ceilings in college! The fact that I get to play a role that’s in a production so close to me is so nice because I can put a bit of myself and my own memories in there.”

She also hopes that productions such as Fame, featuring elements of classical dance or other dance genres, will help widen the demographic at dance shows and put paid to the misconception that straight ballet productions are too high-brow. 

“Fame is a really good opportunity to show off all sorts of dancing and performance through each of the character’s journeys and their different performance passions. There really is something for everyone, and it’s an opportunity for audiences to sample different bits and pieces of the performing arts in a fun and relaxed atmosphere. So I definitely hope it will encourage more people to consider going to ballet shows.”

Jorgie is a firm believer in the universal qualities of Fame The Musical. Because the plot deals with many issues close to the hearts of young people, such as prejudice, identity, sexuality and first love, she feels that the show is able to touch everyone - musical fans and sceptics alike.

“These days adolescents are more involved in tackling these issues head-on, and it’s definitely interesting to see how a musical that originally came from a film made in the 1980s can still be so relevant now. It’s good that the production shows these mature themes in relation to teenagers because I think it’s easy for adults to overlook the ability of young people to really have important things to say about them. So although the musical is so much fun, it’s also got a message behind it that can be relevant to everyone.”

It’s the rollercoaster ride of uncertainty that Jorgie enjoys so much about being an actress. With that in mind, does she have any plans for the future?

“I love being on telly and on stage. I’m very lucky that I’m about to get the opportunity to do both. Future-wise, I don’t think you can ever tell, and that’s why I love this job so much. One minute I’m jumping out of an airplane in a jungle, the next I’m on a TV quiz show or hopping onto the stage to do ballet! I’m just happy to see what comes along, really.”  

Jorgie Porter stars in Fame The Musical at Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham, from Mon 19 to Sat 24 November; Theatre Severn, Shrewsbury, Mon 28 January - Sat 2 February; Regent Theatre, Stoke-on-Trent, Mon 15 - Sat 20 April; Malvern Theatres, Mon 9 - Sat 13 July