This production had dual casts in the principal roles. In the interest of fairness to all, TASA reviewed both casts. David Smith reviewed the New York Cast and Kym Clayton reviewed the LA cast.
New York Cast – David Smith
Fame was an ideal choice for AYT which itself developed from a singing, dancing and acting school. The varied threads of the plot are set in and are dependent upon the PA, a Performing Arts School. The Director Georgia Broomhall and her creative team of Assistant Director Isabelle Dawson, Musical Director Mark Stefanoff and Choreographer Zali Sedgman clearly understood that and created a readily believable production with their talented cast. The singing and acting were uniformly high quality but the slick, skilled choreography, especially in the big production numbers, was remarkable. And the production depends on that being so.
The production’s success was underpinned by a well-modulated band, led by the broadly experienced Mark Stefanoff, and further supported by smooth and well coordinated scene changes.
I saw the New York cast and they were impressive.
While the script does not provide much in the way of character development, it does involve some characters showing a variety of moods and attitudes. The cast managed that well, none more so than Alessia Charman who shone in the central role of Carmen. She sang and moved faultlessly, and her acting showed skill and depth. Her Carmen was as sassy and confident as she should be, and her central role in the title song Fame was very powerful. Credit there, too, to the ensemble who helped make it the show-stopper it was intended to be. Charman was convincing late, too, in the second Act in showing Carmen’s failed dreams. She did so with conviction and no melodrama, which would have been an easy trap to fall into. Her song In LA was very well realised. In all, hers was a compelling performance.
There were a number of other commendable performances. Asher Gordon as the outrageously extroverted Joe had the audience truly on his side and enthusiastically awaiting his every appearance. Daisy Jury was at first delightfully and realistically understated as Serena. She worked well with Bernard Flynn who convinced as the Drama loving and bookish Nick. Later she showed strength of character and voice, particularly in the song Think Of Meryl Streep. In many ways that song summarises one of the major themes of this whole production which is, after all, a musical about musical theatre.
Others to impress in their roles and interactions were Holly Abbott as the food-obsessed Mabel, Sebastian Cox as the academically challenged dancer Jack, Sam Wormald as Iris and Joe Callaghan as Schlomo.
As the often conflicting teachers, Amber Fibrosi as Miss Bell the dance teacher and Marley Banham as Miss Sherman the English teacher, provided an important perspective. Their duet in which they argue their cases about the relative importance of their subjects to their students’ chances of success in the Arts was well sung and acted, and Miss Sherman’s solo These Are My Children was moving.
The whole production was enjoyable, lively and smooth-flowing. It showed, again, the strength of youth musical theatre in Adelaide. AYT is a training ground for performers and creative teams, but Fame showed that the company is more than that. The young cast and crew may be learning their craft, but they know enough already to put on polished and well-managed productions.
LA Cast – Kym Clayton
This review focusses on the LA cast in which the roles of Carmen, Serena, Mabel, Lamb Chops, Iris, Nick, Schlomo, and Jack are played by Paige Tran, Kiara Linke, Bridget Tran, Summa Arrizza, Anna Oldfield, Jack Keukenmeester, Callum Logan, and Mason Pugh respectively.
As Carmen, Paige Tran looks Sassy and exudes confidence, but it really is all a front. In act 2 Carmen has succumbed to drugs, and Tran’s portrayal is a high point of the show. She is defeated and entirely vulnerable. It is quite an affecting performance.
Kiara Linke as Serena is a standout. She has a strong singing voice and partners very well with Jack Keukenmeester. Their scenes provide a strong backbone for the entire production: well defined characters, good stage presence, entirely believable. (There was a technical hitch early in Act 1 during their duet “I want to make Magic”, and the curtain was closed. After repairs were made and the performance resumed, Linke and Keukenmeester resumed as if nothing had happened, like true professionals. Impressive.)
Bridget Tran pours her heart and soul into Mabel. Her performance almost comes across as ‘over the top’, but it’s a perfect choice for a character who is struggling with body-image issues, and a coping strategy is to be larger than life. We’ve all seen it, and its beguiling. Again, a believable and important performance.
Summa Arrizza successfully gives Grace “Lambchops” Lamb a tomboy feel, but also gives her contained intensity and passion when needed.
Anna Oldfield is a capable ballet dancer, and her skills are well suited to playing Iris. Her smile fills the stage, and her balletic lines are smooth and elegant. Her scenes with Mason Pugh, who plays Jack with great charisma and authority, are impactful. Pugh is also an excellent dancer and singer, and is a young performer to look out for.
Callum Logan plays Schlomo on a knife’s edge between introversion and pent-up frustration that is about to explode. It’s a nicely crafted performance.
The principal cast is rounded out with Asher Gordon as the lovable over-sexed larrikin Joe, Henry Tran as the sometimes-sarcastic Goody King, Amber Fibrosi as the passionate dance teacher Miss Bell, Marley Banham as the strict but deeply caring Miss Sherman, Ethan Joy as the gentle father-figure Mr Myers, and Benji Riggs as music teacher Mr Scheinkopf. (Riggs made a REALLY good fist of conducting the on-stage faux orchestra!)
The production was well paced, and the dance routines choreographed by Zali Sedgman were exciting, challenging, and fabulously danced. Mark Stefanoff’s orchestra was tight. The sound engineering was well executed, although some soloists needed additional amplification.
Another terrific production from Adelaide Youth Theatre.