Energy and enthusiasm are the hallmarks of Soundworks productions’ Fame: The Musical.
The cast – mostly aged 16 to 23 (the exception being the teachers) – consists of musical theatre up and comers. There is no shortage of raw talent amongst them.
While the musical itself appears somewhat dated, the concept of not all being able to make it in the cut and thrust world of grease paint still rings true.
Photos by Matthew Chen
The action takes place in the early 1980s at The High School of Performing Arts in New York City, known as PA.
It is there that a multi-ethnic group of students study for four years to try to get a shot at the big time.
Their disciplines include dance, music and drama, but they must also keep up their grades to see their way through the course.
Fame is about their spirit and their lives and loves.
Some struggle. Others have tickets on themselves and lose their way. Still more, have the weight of expectation on their shoulders.
Putting in the work is only part of the equation and getting to graduation effectively marks the start of their life’s calling. Truth be told, some will succeed and others not.
Nevertheless, most are willing to give it their all.
Conceived and developed by David De Silva, the book is by Jose Fernandez, music by Steve Margoshes and lyrics by Jacques Levy.
Musically, only a few songs are particularly memorable.
Of course, there is no doubt the title song – sung twice by Thalia Osegueda in a star turn as Carmen Diaz, who flashes and burns chasing fame – is top of the list.
It is hard not to be impressed by the vocal strength of Amelia McConnell as Serena Katz.
Katz has a crush on Nick Piazza who has a TV ad credit to his name, but wants to be taken seriously as an actor. Patrick Rogers displays sensitivity in that role.
Jack Taylor has a mellifluous voice as classically trainer pianist Schlomo Metzenbaum, expected to do well by his famous violinist father.
Rewaran John brings swagger to dyslexic hip hop dancer Tyrone Jackson, who comes from a poor family.
He enjoys a love/hate relationship with talented ballet dancer Iris Kelly. There is an endearing vulnerability and inner strength about Andie Stewart in that guise.
The undoubted scene stealer is Luke Clancy, who revels as the cheeky Jose Vegas. Clancy’s vocal timbre is something to behold.
Dana Singer finds excess is the best way to realise overweight singer and dancer Mabel Washington, who can’t resist food.
Excelsior Maze has rock chic Grace Lamb down pat, even before the show starts, when she is perched on the edge of the stage.
Jett Sansom has boyish charm and bravado as Goodman King.
With an enviable musical range, Belinda Reid is impresses as by the book English teacher Ms Sherman, who calls the shots.
Her duet with Claire Stubs as dance teacher Ms Bell – who brings her own fierce determination to her realisation of the latter – is among the highlights of Fame.
Zac Parkes is in fine voice as drama teacher Mr Myers, while there is a comic tone to Nathan Fernandez as German music teacher Mr Sheinkopf.
These principal performers are ably supported by a talented ensemble, not to overlook the band, led by musical director Thomas Currie.
I should add that Mark Bradley is in a similar position when it comes to vocals.
Among the impressive elements of Soundworks productions’ staging of the musical is the choreographed dance numbers by Jayden Prelc.
The industrial, graffiti strewn set and props are by Harry Gill, while Jessamine Moffett is responsible for costuming.
Directed by Lauren McKinnon, as is the essence of the storyline, this version of Fame is likely to produce some keepers in the hurly burly world of musical theatre.
It played at Caulfield Grammar between 22nd and 28th January, 2024.