‘New York High School for the Performing Arts’ arrived in Stoke on Monday night in the guise of Fame the Musical. The stage version of Fame was created by David De Silva following the film in 1980. Having premiered in London back in 1995 it has since been shown in many countries and tells the story of a group of students who attend the New York City High School for the Performing Arts. The school is situated only a few blocks from Broadway and Times Square and the stage version relays the story of the student’s time at ‘PA’ from their auditions to graduation.

The talent on stage from the entire cast is undeniable and actually mirrors everything that such a school would entail. Singing, acting and dancing was all consistently to a high level. Individual stand out performances for me included Stephanie Rojas who played the role of the very troubled ‘Carmen’. Her phenomenal vocal range and stage presence enabled the audience to engage with her character throughout. At times it was hard to acknowledge any central character in the performance, however if there was to be one story that was the most engaging it would have to be the part of Carmen.

Jorgie Porter as ‘Iris’ was also a pleasure to watch tonight. With many accolades to her name, she demonstrated tonight that she was a very accomplished actress on stage as well as television. Having starred in ‘Hollyoaks’ and also TV shows such as ‘Dancing on Ice’ amongst many others I considered that it would arguably be performing live on stage that actually suits her the most.

The infamous Mica Paris played the role of ‘Miss Sherman’ and undoubtedly received the biggest applause of the night when she effortlessly provided jaw dropping vocals to the performance. Her roots in gospel and soul music were unmistakable and for me was the highlight of the entire performance tonight.

Whilst there was no denying the talent on stage tonight, by contrast the story unfortunately never really took the audience anywhere. The characters were weak and with several apparent ‘stories’ related to the main characters, the musical sadly only provided a snapshot of a tale for each one. The potential avenues that were available for a more in depth story were plentiful and included drugs, relationships, and the desire for fame at all costs. It would have been helpful to explore the character of Tyrone (Jamal Kane Crawford) further for example. It was evident only towards the middle of the second act that he struggled with reading and that this was related to dyslexia. Also there were hints of a troubled childhood with his desire to be the first in his neighbourhood to get a degree but for one of the main characters these few points were never explored any deeper. This would have provided the audience with more of a memorable story than the one sadly presented.

The set was simple and fairly effective but some scenes were very short and were followed by a completely different story in the next scene. For this reason there was little ‘flow’ to the individual performances.

Tonight there was unfortunately a challenge on stage with the lighting only a few minutes in to the opening numbers. It appeared that the stage had no light on it for a minute and the performance was halted for about 20 minutes. However the theatre handled this very well, keeping the audience informed and furthermore when the performance resumed it did not affect any individual performance in the slightest which must be applauded.

In summary whilst I would certainly praise the fabulous talent on stage, sadly, due to a story line that was quite simply a little on the weak side and with no real depth to the characters there was little that could be done by the cast to ensure the evening was memorable.

Reviewer: Angela Kelly

Reviewed: 15th April 2019

North West End Rating: ★★★