FAME – The Musical, at the Grand Canal Theatre is a powerful, mostly all dancing show with several UK performers who steal the show from the Irish duo of Ben Morris and Jessica Cervi, who won the roles as a result of a very popular RTE wannabe show where the phone-in public picked the eventual performers. Perhaps, too much attention was put on these two and much of the low key gala opening had people asking – are they good enough? Yes, they are and with Sheila Ferguson of The Three Degrees they are the USP – unique selling point – for a nine venue Irish tour running until mid-November, when it completes at Wexford Opera House.
This Bryan Flynn directed show, sticks very much to the UK touring model, tried and trusted but updated to the present time, especially a brilliant techno-style dance for the show-stopping Dance on the Sidewalk. The lines of the lyrics in Tyrone’s Rap are still rooted in the 80’s and it is a little coy that the sexy Can’t Keep It Down is delivered in its sanitised alternative title Can’t Keep It Cool, even though James Alexander Gibbs as Joe Vegas leaves very little to the imagination.
David Hayes as Musical Director drives the show along and while there may have been no dancing in the aisles this show rocks. Nice to see Waterford trombonist Gavin Roche in the pit.
For me, the stars of the show were Taofique Folarin, who brought raw emotion and amazing dancing to the production as Tyrone, Brittany Woodrow as Carmen, moved the audience with the emotional ache of In L.A. She impressed in the dance routine for There She Goes and on the car in the thunderous finale.
I think it was a mistake not to have the two Irish stars in the big FAME number and Ben Morris was good in I Want to Make Magic and Jessica Cervi shone in Let’s Play a Love Scene. Sheila Ferguson nailed the part of Miss Sherman and her These Are My Children was a powerful counterpoint to the big rocking numbers.
Michael Sands was good as Mr.Myers and Paul F.Monaghan was a treat as Mr.Scheinkopf. Yemie Sonuga brought lots of comedy and big ballad power to Mabel’s Prayer and Irish performer Fra Fee was a sensitive Schlomo. Charlotte Watts was excellent as Irish the ballet dancer who had never been kissed and Nick Butcher was ace as the sax playing Goody.
Strangely, there was no standing ovation at the end but Gala nights bring out the great, the good and less of the rest of us and are a bit unreal.
FAME – the Musical is in Cork Opera House at the end of September and in Wexford Opera House mid-November.