FAME!

Tue 22nd – Sat 26th January 2013

reviews

Florence Strickland

at 16:21 on 23rd Jan 2013

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We were all very excited about 'Fame', well I certainly was. This musical based on the original 1980 film portrays the lives of students in the last year at PA (Performing Arts) in New York before it finally closed in 1984. DULOG performed this year’s selection in The Gala Theatre. The energetic performances seen in the film and the success of previous years of DULOG productions, created high expectations. Having performed musicals before I am totally aware of the intensive nature of rehearsals and preparation for a genre that is so visually demanding. I’m not sure whether this cast was either too comfortable with their performance or not comfortable enough, but I felt that this production just didn’t quite hang together.

To create such a spectacle some members of the chorus, and perhaps some of the main characters just weren’t working hard enough – or at least weren’t well enough rehearsed. The cast seemed slightly too exhausted to employ the energy needed for the performance. I completely understand that this is not a professional company, but nevertheless the expectations created by the reputation of DULOG, as well as the production space, were not totally fulfilled.

The choreography was one of the main aspects of the performance, and I thought the ideas here, by choreographer Frances Teehan, were really impressive. Again, sometimes the execution of these ideas was not perfect. Pairs were left without partners, dancers danced out of time. Nevertheless, there were some really beautiful choreographic moments, especially with dancers who are clearly trained in Ballet or dance. Those who performed during 'Teachers' Argument' were stylish and technically impressive.

The element of the under-rehearsed seemed even to be present for some of the main characters. As one of the roles carrying the entire musical I felt Hannah Howie as Carmen relied on her, admittedly fantastic, voice to carry her through her performance rather than really developing her character. There was not enough polish for me. Despite this her rendition of In LA was very moving. Nat Goodwin as Serena, was endearing. She brought a depth to her role that made her performance of the saccharine 'Let’s Play A Love Scene' believable. She is a performer within the Durham Drama scene whom I find consistently successful. Her voice was sound, as was that of Simon Lynch. His outstanding vocal range was one of the few that were able to overcome the extremely loud orchestra. Alex Wingfield as Tyrone Jackson was technically brilliant; both his singing and dancing as well as his acting. His performance of 'Dancin’ on the Sidewalk' actually made me feel enthralled. Michael Forde as Joe was always accurate in his characterisation, and had the audience laughing constantly. My only criticism of the casting in general, more likely a fault of the diversity of Durham University students, is that 'Fame' presents a diverse, ethnic cross-section of society that just wasn’t represented by this cast – despite a range of cultures being represented in the character descriptions of many of the protagonists. Nevertheless, most cast members were as successful as they could be in portraying this sense of diversity.

The technical aspects were, shall we say, precarious. All though I thought the set looked very good, some audience members feared the doors of PA might actually fall off. The lights often created an ambience that added to the performance, such as the opening scene on the Subway – also a testament to some of the work of director, Julia Loveless. However, these moments were very random and, because of this, the intended ambience was not maintained.

There were many interesting and entertaining aspects of this production, and when they were successful I did enjoy myself. Some individual performances, from the main characters to the chorus were almost perfect. They captured the essence of dedication and passion for performing arts that 'Fame' endorses. But, as a whole the production company wasn’t consistent. I could certainly see the efforts that were made by all, and perhaps it was first night jitters, but I wanted more.

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