Tag Archives: Keith Jack

Talent Management

FAME

The Alexandra, Birmingham, Monday 19th November, 2018

 

It strikes me as odd that in a musical, where everyone sings and dances at the drop of a hat with impressive proficiency, the characters should see the need to go to a performing arts college.  But, putting this reservation aside, I settle in for an entertaining evening.

David De Silva’s stage show is inspired by Alan Parker’s hard-hitting film and the somewhat sentimental TV series that followed, and so the characters here are versions of the originals, adhering to types and situations familiar from the previous incarnations.

Ruling the roost as the strict-but-caring Miss Sherman, the mighty Mica Paris is in great form.  Her old-school rhythm and blues number in the second act brings the house down, a searing bit of soul-searching triggered by a run-in with illiterate, arrogant bad boy Tyrone (an intense Jamal Crawford).

Stephanie Rojas is appealing as fame-hungry Carmen whose road to the top is diverted by drug abuse; Simon Anthony gives a sensitive portrayal as her musician friend, Schlomo.  Hayley Johnson adds a touch of humour as Mabel (it’s not just fame she’s hungry for!); while Hollyoaks’s Jorgie Porter convinces as graceful dancer Iris.  Molly McGuire’s Serena is one of the more rounded characters.  She gets to sing one of the score’s stronger tunes about her unrequited love for Keith Jack’s Nick.  Jack is excellent and, unlike most of the others, doesn’t just belt out his numbers, but shows us how vocal dynamics can add character to and enhance the meaning of a song.

The trouble is there are just too many characters, too many subplots.  We only glimpse them throughout the course of their four-year studies.  Albey Brookes’s extrovert, very funny Joe has potential for a proper storyline, but he’s elbowed aside in favour of Serena and Nick’s story.  His resolution is tagged on in a throwaway line about working in a comedy club.  Similarly, Carmen’s descent into drug addiction is handled glibly.  There is simply not time enough in Jose Fernandez’s book to get beneath the surface of their experiences, and this is a shame given the calibre of this talented and energetic cast.  The score, with lyrics by Jacques Levy and music by Steve Margoshes, is also patchy, reaffirming my belief that the show shouldn’t be a musical at all but a play with music that allows us to see the progress the students make in their chosen field of acting, music or dance.

For all that, it’s still an enjoyable watch and it’s easy to be entertained by the performers.  It’s just that I would prefer something with a little more substance regarding the pursuit of fame and the effect of that on young lives.  In this celebrity-obsessed age where anyone can achieve notoriety without a shred of talent, the show could have had a stronger impact.

Fame The Musical-Tour-Manchester-2216

Class acts: the students of FAME

 

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Show of Hands

HMS PINAFORE

Warwick Arts Centre, Coventry, Tuesday 22nd April, 2014 

 

This all-male production sets the action in the hull of a ship during the Second World War.  It’s Gilbert and Sullivan do South Pacific – in a way.  With only three sets of bunk beds and a length of rope for scenery and with judicious use of lighting (designed by Tim Deiling) the company of sailors perform the operetta in an evening that is never short of charming.

Accompanied by musical director Richard Bates on piano, the men are in excellent voice, with some beautiful harmonies and, most impressively, their singing of the female roles doesn’t descend into squawks and screeches.  In fact, as romantic lead Josephine, Alan Richardson displays a fine soprano, like an operatic Jimmy Somerville.  He imbues the role with dignity as well as femininity, wringing drama from the lines by means of understatement.  You get some idea how the Elizabethan boy actors might have got on with Shakespeare’s heroines.

Although disappointing to not see the mighty Keith Jack as romantic hero Ralph Rackstraw in this performance (Get well soon, Keith!) his stand-in, Sam Ferriday is a more than competent substitute as the dashing, lovelorn top man.  Also good fun is Neil Moors as Captain Corcoran, drilling his men like a PE instructor; and Davids McKechnie is suitably obnoxious as Sir Joseph Porter – Gilbert and Sullivan’s satire still rings true to this day: this ‘ruler of the Queen’s navy’ has never been to sea, is woefully unqualified to be the cabinet minister… (I’m looking at you, Gove.  And you, Hunt).  You can imagine Sir Joseph claiming expenses for his entourage of sisters, cousins and aunts (all of whom are delightfully presented!)

Alex Weatherhill’s Buttercup is endearing and funny.  The entire company camp and butch it up accordingly.  There’s a balletic sailors’ hornpipe and Lizzi Gee’s marvellous choreography also has elements of semaphore, I find.  There are shades of Derek Jarman’s The Tempest as they all scurry around but above all I was reminded how Gilbert and Sullivan are the forerunners of the silly songs of Monty Python.  Eric Idle owes them a lot.

A thoroughly entertaining evening that treats the original material with affection and respect, proving that with a director as inventive as Sasha Regan you don’t need to perform G&S on the grand scale for it to work as richly and as effectively as it does here.

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Hello, sailors! Neil Moors puts his crew through their paces