Fame explodes on stage with a modern makeover

Fame The Musical. Photo by Hugo Glendinning

Fame The Musical. Photo by Hugo Glendinning

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They left stage school with stars in their eyes and a burning desire to be famous – and now the cast of Fame are back in class and hitting the heights with a national tour of the smash hit show.

Fame The Musical which comes to Aylesbury’s Waterside Theatre from March 24 has been spectacularly re-imagined and revitalised by former Thriller choreographer Gary Lloyd.

Joseph Giacone in Fame The Musical

Joseph Giacone in Fame The Musical

Out are the 1980s neon leotards and bubble perms and in comes a raw street energy, hip hop, break-dancing and all mod cons – laptops, tablets and smartphones.

There are buckets of attitude, lots of fun and dynamic performances – particularly from dancer Alex Thomas as the class bad boy Tyrone Jackson.

This is Fame for a new generation. Set in modern day at the New York High School of Performing Arts where 4,000 wannabes compete for just 97 places and the chance of success.

“You’re the cream of the crop” says teacher Miss Sherman. “You’re the best of the best. That doesn’t mean you get a free ride.”

There are dancers hooked on drugs, musicians under pressure, and, at its heart, a troubled black teen who is an inspirational dancer but a struggling academic.

I went backstage to meet the kids from Fame and to talk to its choreographer and director, Gary Lloyd.

Gary, who has been involved in X Factor and American Idol as well as hit stage shows like Thriller Live and Footloose, is a huge fan of the original show.

He said: “When I was approached to do this my only real condition was if I could bring it up to date for today’s audiences. I grew up on the original Fame. Fame is a big reason I do what I do.

“But the original story really needed a revamp and be brought into the modern day for people to want to come and see it again. That contemporary vibe was desperately needed.

“This cast need to relate to it. They are these characters. They’ve all just come out of stage school”.

“That hunger to be famous is more prevalent now than then. It’s not just about being in the chorus line it’s about being a star. We live in a very celebrity-obsessed world and kids want that 15 minutes, or longer, of fame.

“This production is raw and gritty but also glamorous. I want audiences to feel how I felt when Fame the Movie first came out.”

Alex modestly says that it’s very much an ensemble show but you can’t take your eyes of this tall, wondrous dancer from Derby who has also, unsurprisingly, modelled on designer catwalks.

“It’s like going back to school for us. We’ve all been through it. I auditioned and was so excited to hear I’d got the part of Tyrone.

“He’s an incredibly powerful character. An inner urban kid from New York who knows that he wants to dance but he has to complete his studies as well and that’s just not his bag!

“He’s very rebellious. I can relate to his problems of being a bit of a fish out of water. I left home at 16 to move to London to train and all of a sudden you’re with strangers and you just have to get on with it!

“This is my first principal role so it’s really great to show what I can do.”

Alexzandra Sarmiento, who plays tomboy drummer Grace “LambChops” Lamb actually went to PA and so Fame is like returning home.

“I’ve not seen the original so this is all new for me. This 20-year-old wanting to live the dream is very much what I went through. I went to the Fame School, left at 18 and, after a year in college came over here to be in A Chorus Line”.

Watford-born Joseph Giacone is no stranger to the role of comic Joe Vegas. In the show he steps into the spotlight for a very naughty song that brings the house down.

Off stage he is as engaging as his character.

“I was playing the part in another production in Stevenage when I won an audition to go on tour with Lloyd’s show.

“I’m so excited. We’ve all been through the same experiences so this is very close to all of our hearts. It’s such fun to do and hopefully the audience will get that”.

Fame comes to Waterside March 24 for a week. For tickets call the box office 0844 871 7607 or visit www.atgtickets.com/aylesbury.

It’s at Milton Keynes Theatre May 12-17. For tickets there go to www.atgtickets.com/miltonkeynes
Or call 0844 871 7652.

Follow me @LBOanne