REVIEW: Fame, Whitley Bay Playhouse, performed by Longbenton Community College

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Students at Longbenton Community College took over the Whitley Bay Playhouse last night for the fifth year running and it was a spectacular treat.

The performing arts department took on the Broadway classic Fame! which is an emotionally-charged insight into world of hopeful actors, dancers and musicians.

I haven’t had the privilege of reviewing anything by the college before. Actually, it was the first time I’ve reviewed in the Whitley Bay Playhouse, but it was clear to see why all of the 600 seats had been sold.

For those who haven’t seen the play before, it’s based on the 1980 hit musical film by the same name. It follows ten young teens who are hoping to be the stars of tomorrow.

You have the strained lovers Nick Piazza (Frankie Aird) and Serena Katz (Eve Murray), the class clown Jose ‘Joe’ Vegas (Alex Wilson) and the troubled Carmen Diaz (Katy Wright), who all set the stage for a great production.

It was a show that really packed a punch thanks to a great effort from those involved. The cast made good use of the stage and there was a great pace throughout.

I sometimes find with amateur productions that scene changes can take far too long and some of the meaning of the show is lost. This certainly wasn’t the case here – everything was sharp and well executed.

The band, under the baton of Miss Houlton, had clearly put effort into the arrangements.

The student-led production was a credit to the school and I was very surprised to learn that the choreography was undertaken by a pupil, Sonia Zemouri, who should be very proud. The dancing worked so well, with the music and was a pleasure to watch.

As for the acting, these youngsters would give many a West End thespian a run for their money.

Frankie Aird and Eve Murray both gave stunning vocal performances in all of their songs. Aird put on a clean and believable American accent, while Murray’s very pure singing voice suited her shy character perfectly.

Katy Wright was a true leading lady. She played the girl who thought she was too good for performance school and made for bigger things. She did absolute justice to the title song Fame! She added some lovely riffs to add her own mark to the piece.

I think my favourite, though, was Victoria Dormand, who played the stern teacher Miss Sherman. When I saw the show on its national tour about six or seven years ago, I hated the song These Are My Children. I think Dormand’s version was much better than any other I’d heard before.

All in all, the production was a massive success and I thoroughly enjoyed my evening. I think it’s the only version of Fame! I’ve seen that included a medley of Bohemian Rhapsody and Girls Just Wanna Have Fun. The use of the junior students worked really well and it was great to see so many boys on the stage, both in lead roles and in the ensemble.