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Based on the 1980 phenomenal pop culture film.
The original mega-hit film and its spin-off TV series are now both so old that their once-nimble dancers might soon be reaching for zimmer frames! By contrast, Fame The Musical continues to get up a sweat on a regular basis. And as high-octane, choreographed-to-the-rafters stage musicals go, it hits the Midlands this month with a reputation second to none.
Set in New York’s legendary High School for the Performing Arts, the show focuses on the highs and lows of the students who’re desperately seeking success, and offers a dazzling evening of foot-tapping music and breathtaking dance into the bargain.
Re-envisioned songs include Let’s Play A Love Scene and the title hit itself.
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
Iconic film Fame has had many reincarnations since its release in 1980. It has been a TV series and spin-off series; there was a film remake in 2007 and the stage musical is currently celebrating its 30th Anniversary on tour – this month playing at Regent Theatre, Stoke-on-Trent.
The New York City High School for Performing Arts is brought to life by Morgan Large’s basic yet bold design, almost entirely dominated by an angular wall of headshots. Prema Mehta’s lighting features a handful of stunning states, with a standout moment being at the end of ‘In LA’ in Act Two. She also uses strip lighting frequently and effectively. The action is set across two levels with Director Nick Winston using all of the available playing space. His choreography is consistently excellent and the amount of content throughout the show, plus the execution by the talented cast, is quite exceptional. In the larger ensemble numbers, the performers could be more synchronised but they are still staggeringly good. Across the direction and design, the time setting is a little blurry. I was initially unsure whether the action had been moved to the present day, however some of the later dialogue clarifies that the class are graduating in 1984. This could have been made a little more prominent from the outset.
Steve Margoshes’ score has been recreated with an almost modern interpretation of some musical parts. Having some of the performers playing instruments live on stage is a great decision, accompanying the wonderful sound coming out of the pit, under the musical direction of Dustin Conrad. The fusion of styles in ‘There She Goes’, the beauty of ‘Bring On Tomorrow’ and the soulful powerhouse of ‘These Are My Children’ sung by Mica Paris (as Miss Sherman) are particular musical highlights.
The film’s tagline is “if they’ve got what it takes, it’s going to take everything they’ve got” and this cast certainly leave everything out on the stage. Stephanie Rojas playing Carmen is a remarkable talent, equally strong at singing, dancing and acting. ‘In LA’ is a heart-breaking and dramatic turning point in the show. Jorgie Porter – best known as Theresa McQueen in Hollyoaks – plays Iris and demonstrates her sensational classical dancing prowess and high stamina. Simon Anthony as Schlomo and Jamal Crawford playing Tyrone are also strong triple threats to look out for in the future.
An explosion of dance, high energy and emotion.
Review of Fame the Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham, November 2018.
**** Four stars
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