The television smash hit Glee and Disney’s successful High School Musical franchise have demonstrated that ambition and talent are not lost on the young. Like their adult contemporaries, young artists can be startlingly headstrong and occasionally cruel in the pursuit of their artistic dreams. But anyone watching can’t deny that these kids are having a helluva load of fun revelling in the performing arts. This month, the same can be said of the over 50 performers who populate the 2011 Jamaica Junior Theatre production Fame: The Next Generation, a revival based on the successful eighties film and television show now playing at UWI Mona’s Philip Sherlock Centre.
The show, directed by Peter Haley (with choreography from Tony Wilson and musical direction by Douglas Bennett) is set at a performing arts college in Atlanta, but the setup is pure high school, baby. There’s the requisite teen romance, the preppy girl who likes to make herself the centre of attention and a bit of uninspired conflict. But that’s not to say that the show doesn’t go anywhere.
In fact, it’s a lively, song-and-dance filled production, and Wilson does an impressive job choreographing the musical numbers, which border on invigorating and vividly show off Carolyn Chin Yee’s terrific costumes. But the plot is generic and the characters never rise beyond a single dimension. Henley does manage, however, to pull commendable performances from standouts David Reid, Stephanie Hazle and Matthew McKenzie.
There are humorous moments and the show is a bit more involving than previous productions I’ve seen from the JJT. The kids have fun with their parts, some more gratifying than others, and save a big burst of exuberance for the grand final number, the popular “One,” from Broadway’s A Chorus Line.
Overall, Fame is light-hearted entertainment laden with infectious pop songs and catchy showtunes amidst its shortcomings. Tyrone’s Verdict: C+