The stage at the Grand Opera House was awash with neon, leotards, denim and leg warmers for the Stage Experience production of Fame – The Musical.
Grand Opera House
I’m not sure the fashion was a flashback of the Eighties I particularly wanted to remember, but I did enjoy the show.
You don’t have to be familiar with the story to enjoy the performance, it was different in places to the movie and TV series I love and remember; but my fourteen-year-old daughter (who has never seen either of them) thoroughly enjoyed it as well.
If you’re not familiar with Stage Experience, it’s been an annual event at the Grand Opera House since 2000. The cast are aged between 10 and 21 and only come together for the first time two weeks before the performance.
You’d never guess they only had two weeks to get this perfected; I think I only detected one very minor voice wobble near the start, and don’t recall any first night glitches being apparent.
One element of this show that I was particularly looking forward to was seeing cast members again that I’ve been enjoying in local theatre groups for a few years now.
Every time I see them they amaze me with the progress that they’ve made, and how quickly they are growing up. At times I have to remind myself how young some of them still are. They’re very polished performers.
The cast this evening was a mix of familiar and new faces for me, and I was impressed by the energy, enthusiasm and professionalism of them all. I was also rather envious of some of the moves these young dancers can perform. I’ve never been blessed with flexibility like that!
Lot of laughter
It’s quite a large cast overall, yet there wasn’t a time when I felt the stage looked over crowded or anyone was going to trip over one of their fellow performers; not bad considering how small the Grand Opera House stage is.
Aside from the dire Eighties fashion exhibited at times, the costumes were good, and at times hilarious.
I’m not sure I’ll ever get over the image of Finn East in tights and a rather too short Romeo smock in one scene, although it generated a lot of laughter from the audience.
Finn plays the loud, and at times, obnoxious character of Joe Vegas to a tee. He has a great voice, and excellent comedic timing. He’s always a pleasure to watch.
The cast member that probably surprised me the most was Lydia Bradd as Carmen Diaz. At first I really couldn’t warm to her, but it soon became apparent that this was characterisation to perfection.
The cocky attitude, sneers and head tosses made this a rather un-loveable character for me in the first half. She struts around the stage with her amazing figure, short, swirly dresses and attitude a plenty.
Just how much of this bravado is acting doesn’t really become apparent until her return in the second half. The transformation was astounding and showed just how good an actress Lydia is.
She has a real Latin rhythm in her dance moves and gave an excellent performance.
Max Mulrenan, was brilliant as the arrogant and brash Tyrone Jackson.
It’s easy to forget just how young Max is, he’s only just moving up to year ten at school. He played this older character role really well, and handled everything from rap to ballet without issue.
At the start of the performance Tyrone is only interested in his street dance and choreography, and at times appears disjointed and uncomfortable in ballet class.
By the end of the first year you can see how fluid and natural his moves are in the ballet routine.
I’ve long thought that Max has a very bright future ahead of him, he’s always seemed a talented youngster to me. This evening only heightened that for me.
I really do look forward to seeing where he goes from here.
Charlotte McCamley played Serena Katz, the larger than life actress with a not so secret crush on Luke Wilby’s character Nick Piazza.
She has a beautiful, strong voice and can handle emotion and comedy equally well. I really liked her character and performance.
Another favourite of mine, Sam Rippon, plays the serious musician student Schlomo Metzenbaum. I loved his duet with Lydia Bradd, although his performance of the same song in the finale reduced me to tears.
He looked so lost and sad on the stage; I couldn’t help it. I also wasn’t prepared for what had happened to Lydia in the previous scene. I won’t spoil it for you, but it had a pretty big impact.
In the opening scene I actually asked my daughter if one of the dancers was pregnant! She looked like she was several months gone.
It was the talented Amelia Cook playing Mabel Washington, the dancer who has a see food diet – she sees food and she eats it! Once I realised who it was, the padding was obvious.
It’s a shame Mabel’s character didn’t have more stage time, as Amelia has an outstanding voice. I saw her in last years West Side Story as Anita, where she stole the show for me.
Iona Kaye who plays Ms Bell, the dance teacher, was popular with both my daughter and I. This young 17-year-old played the mature teacher very well, and again I’d have liked to hear more of her voice.
The duet of The Teachers Argument with Alexandra Mather as Miss Shannon was really good.
Engaging, entertaining, hilarious
I think the whole Stage Experience idea is a great way for this talented young cast to showcase their expertise, and tonight shows just how much local talent we have.
The performance was engaging, entertaining and at times hilarious, most of all it was professional.
Regardless of age, this is a show the whole family can enjoy. The audience this evening covered the whole spectrum from young children to grand parents and everyone seemed to enjoy it as much as we did.
It might be worth noting that there is a collection at the end for two local charities, the Renal unit at York District Hospital and Martin House Children’s Hospice.
It’s a good idea to have some extra change with you if you’d like to support these great charities, although the cast members do suggest that the paper variety weighs a lot less for the ushers to collect!
It was a thoroughly enjoyable and entertaining performance. Well done everyone!