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Fame (Stevenage)

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

For a young cast with most of its members newly launched into the competitive world of professional theatre, the performers in Catherine Lomax's production of Fame come close to showing up dancer-singers with a great deal more experience.

From the opening number which displayed Khiley Williams' inventive and extremely vigorous choreography to the eye-(and ear-) opening finale, one has the sense that everyone concerned with the production was fully engaged with the story and willing to display its depths as well as its superficial show-businessiness.

Chris Keen directs the nine-piece band to show off the vocal talents of the players. it was a pity that Luke Hyde's sound remained throughout at full throttle; the words of the vital exchange between Kimberley Ensor's Esther Sherman and Felicity Kirwin's Greta Bell were all-but swallowed up on the opening night.

As chip-on-shoulder Tyrone, Ricardo Castro is completely credible in the maverick elements of the part while letting you feel the pent-up frustration of his dyslexia. He is matched by Hollie Cassar's Carmen who echoes her namesake's fate; she sings, acts and dances with real intelligence.

Other stand-out performances are those of Gemma Lawson as dancer Iris and full-voiced Laura Hyde as Mabel. As well as the 14 principal characters, the Gordon Craig had a fleet-footed ensemble of 11 actor-dancers, each of whom projects a throughly credible personality. Andy Newell's set is flexible enough to whisk us along time's passage while leaving room for both concerted and individual moments to make their mark.

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