Edinburgh Playhouse has played host to it’s own "Fame Academy" having run an intensive fortnight’s workshop and rehearsal programme involving 130 young people between the ages of 10-21 from Edinburgh, Fife, and the Lothians. This stage experience is a follow-up to previous successes with Oliver, High School Musical, Annie, and Anything Goes.
This hard work culminated in a three performances of a very appropriately chosen production of ‘Fame’. The opening night was last night (Friday) and you will have to get your skates on to catch either Saturday’s matinee @ 2.30pm or the final performance tonight (24 July) at 7.30pm
Most people of a certain age think they know this show which started out as a film became a six season TV series on BBC and obviously a stage musical. If you purchased the original soundtrack to the film you might be surprised about how the project evolved before taking to the stage. The title song is the most memorable number, but the principals make the most of others particularly "Think of Meryl Streep".
Fame tells the story of a group of students (large in this case) and their quest for stardom. From the tentative auditions through the traumas, relationships and endeavour that it takes to make it to the top.
This cast works really hard to reproduce the amazingly energetic dance routines. Great credit to the Director Malcolm J. Burnett and choreographer Iain Hughes for managing the large numbers getting into position and performing with out colliding. All this in a fortnight! This was no mean feat: the Playhouse has a wide stage and at times every square metre had a gyrating body on it.
The groupings and use of the balconies was cleverly worked out using the director’s long experience of working with large numbers of young people in musicals and other stage productions.
Having given praise where it’s due, artistically there was too big a chorus and this detracted from the visual impact. There was a fantastic finale with a third of the chorus in the stalls, a third in the circle and the other third onstage and I think that illustrated that a smaller cast would have been more effective. If the show had a longer run then chorus could have been alternated.
Despite the cast being under 21, there was a lot of experience and talent within the principals. Most are involved in various stages of their own performing arts training and it showed. Rachel Flynn at 16 years played the school principal with aplomb.
Most of the others were in couples and there wasn’t a weak link in sight. Maybe unfair to pick out individuals but Lauren Burnett, Rowan Hall and Ben Fitzpatrick caught the eye and ear along with Kimberley Torley who rightly took centre stage in that spectacular finale. I am sure most of the cast have probably been to dance school but this was high octane dancing to a high standard.
This was a fantastic opportunity for the local youngsters to work closely with a team of theatre professionals in the UK's largest theatre and an opportunity for the audience to see the stars of the future!
Runs to Saturday 24, 2.30pm and 7.30pm