Thursday, 5 July 2012

ONE OF THE SMART ONES LIZA MINNELLI – LIVE AT THE WINTER GARDEN CD Back in the late eighties I would often head into “Cheapo Records” on Rupert Street and rummage through the racks to see what could tempt me. On some occasions I would come across something that I didn’t even know existed, such as when I found Liza Minnelli’s “Live At The Winter Garden” album. Recorded in 1974 well before “Cats” was installed in the theatre “Now And Forever” – or not actually, as Mamma Mia has been there for a good decade, the album is one that seemed fated never to get a CD release. Finally that has been rectified, and it’s only reading the liner notes that I discover the album itself was also a rare gem having been withdrawn from release very quickly due to issues with the rights of her performances from “Cabaret” So almost forty years on a performance from a young Liza at the height of her powers and fame has at been embraced by the digital age. Hot on the heels of both “Cabaret” and “Liza With A Z” it must have been a very hot ticket when Liza set foot on the stage of the Winter Garden and hearing this album now it’s easy to understand why. Firstly what strikes me is the boundless energy that the recording captures, whether it’s on “A Natural Man”, “If You Could Read My Mind” or possibly the best of her several recordings of “I Can See Clearly Now” you just know that she was dancing up a storm and holding the audience in the palm of her hands. The only disappointing original track is over very early in proceedings when she sings “Shine On Harvest Moon” a song that I have never been particularly fond of. However, this is followed by the first of several pieces of special material, a companion piece to “Liza With A Z”, where Liza sings of people who she has met claiming to know someone “Exactly Like You”. It’s the sort of song that Liza excels at and other performers can rarely carry off. She follows this with the rousing “The Circle” a lesser known Piaf tune, followed by the standard “More Than You Know”. Next up is another absolute highlight from the pens of Kander & Ebb, the little known “I’m One Of The Smart Ones.” A change of pace with a couple of Charles Aznavour songs, the introspective “And I In My Chair” which defines the thinking that a song is a three act play in four minutes. As Liza sings of observing people at a party as her relationship breaks down you believe every word. Thankfully after the heartbreak of this number she lets rip with the better known “There Is A Time”, before once again getting introspective with a definitive version of “A Quiet Thing” from her first Broadway show “Flora, The Red menace”. The original ends with the track that lead to the many years of limbo that the album suffered – a medley from “Cabaret”. No surprises in this selection, but many of the preceding make this album an absolutely essential purchase for any fan of Liza. My only real negative criticism is that the album doesn't use the original cover art on the front, relegating it to an inside picture. However I have used that original design for this review.
As an added bonus for this release come three additional tracks from the archives that never made the original cut of the album. It’s fair to say that it’s always nice to have a little extra Liza, but none of these three tracks sparkle in the way that the highlights of the original album do. For another taste of Liza from this period seek out “Liza With A Z” on either CD or even better DVD.

Sunday, 17 June 2012

How Glad I Am that I discovered Aretha's jazz past

It has been sometime since I wrote regularly for my blog, so it’s high time I at least attempt to write the occasional paragraph. I seem to accumulate CDs and DVDs at such a ridiculous rate that I thought I would begin by writing the occasional review of the latest additions to my collection. For my first selection I am taking a look at a recent compilation by the greatest of soul divas – Aretha Franklin ARETHA FRANKLIN – THE GREAT AMERICAN SONGBOOK When most of us think of Ms Franklin we tend to think of the classic soul tracks she recorded for the Atlantic label in the late sixties and early seventies, such as “A Natural Woman”, “Think” and “Respect”. The definitive recordings she recorded during this period have possibly over shadowed everything that she did in later years, and this is certainly the case when it comes to the recordings she did for Columbia in the early sixties at the beginning of her career. Apparently it became common place for people to say that these early albums were produced by a label that neither understood or supported Franklin as a performer and are inferior to everything that followed. However, Aretha is on the record as saying that what she really wanted to be was a jazz singer, and that she holds these recordings in high regard herself as the arrangements and production, were exactly as she wanted at the time, and she held the musicians in higher regard than those on her more successful songs. Putting all that aside I can only judge the recordings as I find them myself., and as a lover of the great American songbook, I can judge them alongside the great artists of the last eighty years or so who have made a success of singing the music of Porter, Berlin, the Gershwins and more. I can possibly divide the songs into two categories. Firstly, tracks such as “What A Difference a Day Made” and “How Deep Is The Ocean” where she plays it straight with arrangements close to the originals. I almost expected the vocal histrionics that typify a lot of Aretha’s work (for better or worse) but what Franklin does is showcase the music and lyrics in a similar way to Ella Fitzgerald did on her acclaimed songbook series for the Verve label, and she is no less effective than Ella herself which is high praise indeed. Secondly, there are the recordings where Aretha let’s loose and swings. She throws herself into these songs with what seems like abandon, but on closer listening it’s clear that these are meticulously considered renderings on a par with the greatest of jazz performers. What sets many of these tracks apart are the inventive arrangements where Aretha deconstructs a songs and re-invents it so it sounds like something you are hearing for the first time. This is typified by her take on “It Ain’t Necessarily So”, but the absolute highlights are possibly “How Glad I Am” and Cole Porter’s “Love For Sale” which give her full rein to really let loose and show what she can do, but without the over indulgence that some of her later work exhibited. It’s fair to say that I was totally blown away by this compilation and can’t recommend it highly enough. Aretha Franklin has now gone from a singer I used to quite like and appreciate to one that I regard in the highest terms and want to discover more about. FURTHER RECOMMENDATIONS If like me you listen to and enjoy this album then do as I have done and seek out some of the individual albums from this period where she was, as oft described, “the Queen in waiting” Many of these discs are available in budget priced box sets. So far I have added “Unforgettable – A Tribute To Dinah Washington”, “The Electrifying…”, “Soul Sister”, “The Tender, The Moving, The Swinging”, and “Running Out Of Fools” to my collection and none of them have disappointed – they all highlight the great Jazz singer that Aretha Franklin was in her early twenties whilst showing a tantalizing glimpse of the consummate soul diva she would become.

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Les Miserables Aux Folles

Les Miserables Aux Folles

As I write, it’s almost a week since I tried to get to the French revolution during a tube strike. OK, that’s a slight exaggeration, I was of course attending the 25th Anniversary concert of “Les Miserables” at Greenwich’s O2, but yes a tube strike was beginning that night, so my mind was possibly more occupied on how one earth I would get home rather than the joys of the “Worlds Favourite Musical” tm.

I have to admit “Les Miserables” may be the worlds favourite musical but it probably wouldn’t even make my own personal top thirty. Despite it possessing a fair few good songs in the score, it lacks the qualities that, I think, make for a great musical. Far too many characters die for me to engage with them emotionally, although I may be in the minority here as dozens of audience members sob through the whole piece relentlessly.

However, that aside, the celebratory concert at the O2 was a wonderful occasion. I think possibly “Les Miserables” is at it’s best in this format, away from the ongoing dreariness of the regular stage production. It was beautifully cast with stars from the world of Opera, the West End, Broadway and a small sprinkling of Jonas brother. There were a few occupants of my box who were rather scathing when it came to Nick Jonas, but I found him to be a perfectly respectable light tenor, and was probably a far better Marius than I have ever seen in the four times I attended the West End production (Why oh why????) Unfortunately he was cast alongside a triumvirate of truly exceptional male voices that couldn’t fail to put him in their shadows. Firstly, “Love Never Dies’” star Ramin Karimloo as Enjolras who thrilled with “Do You hear The People Sing”, and also Broadway’s Norm Lewis as Javert. However the real sensation was opera’s Alfie Boe. His rendition of “Bring Him Home” was truly beautiful. I would wager that it has never sounded better. Amongst the other cast members Lea Salonga showed Susan Boyle where she goes wrong with “I Dreamed A Dream” and Samantha Barks was stunning as Eponine and has really grown as a performer since her TV stint on “I’d Do Anything”. Last but not least Matt Lucas’s comic turn as Thenardier showed what an asset he would be to musical theatre should he decide to follow that path.

It was thrilling to hear the score performed with full orchestra and a massive chorus which made it quite spine tingling at times. However the most moving moments came towards the concerts close when the original cast from back in 1985 took to the stage. We heard “Bring Him Home” again as Mr Boe and the original Valjean, Colm Wilkinson were joined by the current West End and touring Valjeans in a beautiful harmony. All that remained was for the original cast to lead the entire company in a rousing reprise of “One Day More” to the whoops and whistles of all in the O2.

Definitely an evening to remember and one that is to be released on DVD shortly.

Also this week, I received my new small shiny disc of the Broadway revival cast recording of Jerry Herman’s “La Cage Aux Folles”. Now “la Cage” is definitely in my top twenty musicals, as I have a particular fondness for it that dates back to 1986 when I worked front of house on the London Palladium production. The recent London revival (on which this incarnation was based) was a pale shadow of the original for me. However it did reveal that it has a particularly strong book and score which cannot really be messed up. As much as the original orchestrations and George Hearn’s definitive Zaza will always be hard to better, the new recording still has much to enjoy. Whilst lacking Hearn’s vocal abilities, Douglas Hodge imbues Zaza with much warmth and emotion and still manages to dazzle with “Mascara” and the iconic “I Am What I Am”. Ably supported by Frasier Crane himself, Kelsey Grammer (who betters Broadways original – Gene Barry) they lead a competent company in this new recording. Whilst I feel “The Best Of Times” and “Cocktail Counterpoint” are disappointing on the album, most of the new orchestrations and vocal arrangements work brilliantly. Where this new recording really scores however, is with the afore mentioned leads. You really do get a sense that these are two men in love and you cannot fail to be moved by “Look Over There” as Grammer sings of the love that Zaza feels for their son. Truly touching. Also the “naughtiness” of les notorious Cagelles shines through. Whilst it will never replace the original 1983 Broadway recording in my affections it’s a worthy addition to my collection.
Available on PS Classics.

So my week has seen my journey from the French revolution to the French Riviera, acts of war to acts of….well drag……, Alfie Boe to a feather boa, who knows what the next week will hold!!!!!!!!!

Thursday, 30 September 2010

It's Liza With A Z

As anyone who knows me intimately can tell you I have rather a big one. Now, now don’t let you dirty mind get you all carried away, what I am referring to is, of course, my comprehensive collection of CD’s and DVD’s. Barely a week goes by without me having to purchase the latest must have item for my listening or viewing pleasure, and the last week was no exception as I was woken with a thud on the doormat not once, not twice but three times (thank you as two CD’s and one DVD arrived. Unusually in this instance all three packages had one performer in common, the show business legend that is Liza Minnelli.

The first of these was “Cabaret And All That Jazz – The Liza Minnelli Anthology” , a by no means definitive collection largely culled from the recordings Ms Minnelli made for the Columbia label between 1972 and 1992. It’s a real pot-pourri of musical styles from a period where Liza was at her most creatively prolific. Much of the content was already in my collection so I am not going to particularly dwell on the tracks from “The Singer”, “Liza With Z” and the rather wonderfully bizarre 1977 album “Tropical Nights”, nor indeed the album that was to prove her most successful in terms of chart placing, 1989’s Pet Shop Boys’ produced “Results”. What made this album a must have was the inclusion of around a dozen tracks that had hitherto never been released on shiny silver disc. Back in the early nineties I had discovered a rather scratchy old second hand vinyl copy of “Liza Live At The Winter Garden” originally released in 1974. I have been waiting for twenty years for the album to be released on CD – to no avail – so when I saw that almost all of the albums tracks were to be included on this compilation I knew I just had to have it. Sadly the best version of her oft recorded “I Can See Clearly Now” was not included, but what remains includes four Minnelli classics. Liza’s first Broadway show, a decade earlier, was “Flora, The Red Menace”, and at the Winter Garden she performed, possibly the best ever versions of the lovely plaintive “A Quiet Thing” alongside the more rousing “I’m One Of The Smart Ones” from that show. After 1972’s “Liza With A Z” she returned with another piece of specially written material where she sang of people often saying they had a friend just like her with “Exactly Like Me” which possibly even betters the earlier song. However the undoubted highlight, which ranks as one of my personal Liza favourites is her rendition of Charles Aznavour’s “And I, In My Chair” a little known gem, conversational in style, that is almost a one act play in it’s own right telling the story of a woman at a party. This alone was the main reason that I bought this compilation, and one I will never regret.

Bringing things right up to date Liza has just released a new studio collection entitled “Confessions”. It’s a very different Minnelli we hear on this recording, a world apart from many of the recordings on the anthology. Vocally, now she is in her mid sixties, her voice hasn’t the range and energy it had in these earlier recordings, but she more than makes up for that in warmth. The repertoire she has chosen is perfect for the sultry husky tones she now has in a collection of late night jazzy tunes accompanied by her long time pianist Billy Stritch. The mood is set with the rather naughty “Confession” by Schwartz & Dietz where she claims that “I am always in bed by ten, and then go home at four” before launching into a swinging version of the Cy Coleman classic “You Fascinate Me So”, possibly my favourites amongst a collection of standards and little known gems that also includes “Close My Eyes” and Peggy Lee’s “He’s A Tramp”. Of particular interest for Liza fans is the rarely performed “On Such A Night Like This” which dates back to the sixties and was, I believe composed for an un-produced musical that was to have starred Liza alongside Jeanette McDonald, with a lyric that pays homage to her mother Judy Garland, amongst many others. If you are looking for a mellow jazzy album, for late evening, to enjoy alongside good conversation and a glass of your favourite tipple then “Confessions” would make a very good choice.

Lastly I come to the DVD of “Liza’s At The Palace”, when Liza is in front of an audience a magical alchemy happens, and this concert is no exception. Liza makes a few jokes about not being able to do what she used to, but then again who can at 64? Let’s face it Liza at 64 is so much more than many at half her age. Of all the concerts Liza has performed this one is probably her most autobiographical as she pays tribute to both of her parents, and most notably her godmother Kay Thompson. These days Kay is best known for her outrageously camp “Think Pink” number in the classic Hollywood musical “Funny Face”, but other than a recreation of that movie’s “Clap Yo’ Hands” this concert looks to her night club act from the late forties that she performed with the Williams Brothers. It’s quite unlike anything that you ever see these days and really infectious in it’s energy. Of the other material there are three undoubted highlights. Firstly, the specially written “I Would Never Leave You” which is evocative of Shirley Bassey’s recent “The Performance” collection, as it deals with an older performer looking back on her life. A real treat is a rare performance of “I Am My Own Best Friend” that Liza first performed in her brief Broadway stint of “Chicago” in the mid-seventies and has never previously recorded. The third highlight, which I was lucky enough to see her perform at the Albert Hall in 1992, is another Charles Aznavour song “What Makes A Man A Man” which unusually for the period it was written (forty years ago) deals with homosexuality . Particularly unusual is the fact that Liza sings it as a man playing a woman. Not camp at all!

In closing, all of these items come highly recommended for fans of Liza both old and new. I hope you enjoy them!

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Once Upon Another Time

In the last few weeks the show-biz forums have been well and truly buzzing. It seems people were well and truly up in arms! How could Andrew Lloyd Webber have the audacity to produce a sequel to “The Phantom of The Opera?” How dare he write a follow up to the greatest musical ever? How dare he re-use a song he had already put in another show? These questions were only the tip of the iceberg as it seemed that almost everybody had an opinion on the subject. Also, let’s not forget all the armchair critics who had heard this or heard that or had spoken to someone who had seen a preview and they had thought all manner of things. Well everybody is entitled to an opinion I guess so now the dust has settled a little and the show has had it’s glittering premier and been reviewed by the critics I thought I would offer mine.

I would say, in producing “Love Never Dies”, Lord Lloyd Webber possibly has a little audacity but then again writing a rock musical about the gospels in the early seventies was a lot more audacious, as was setting a whole musical on roller skates back in the eighties. However, I do concede that “The Phantom Of The Opera” is a hard act to follow so it was certainly a bold move. I don’t necessarily believe that “Phantom” is the greatest musical ever written (actually I like “Evita” a lot more) and, yes, I do realise that’s almost as controversial as saying Susan Boyle isn’t the greatest singer. Of course, it’s all down to personal taste, but what is beyond dispute is that “Phantom” is one of the most successful musicals of all time and amongst the best loved. For this reason many of its fans feel a real sense of ownership when it comes to the show and have very fixed ideas about what happens next or indeed if anything should.

The real controversy around “Love Never Dies” seems to be that Andrew Lloyd Webber took the chorus of “Our Kind Of Love” from “The Beautiful Game” and re-used it as the title song. Well, as Fraulein Schneider in “Cabaret” once said “who cares, so what!” Almost as long as musicals have been produced composers have recycled tunes – and in many cases lyrics. Back in the thirties the Gershwin’s used “The Man I Love” in “Strike Up The Band” before cutting it and later re-used it in “Rosalie” before cutting it again. Irving Berlin’s “Mr Monotony” had a similar history. In the 1953 Rodgers and Hammerstein show “Me And Juliet” Richard Rodgers used the theme he had written for the previous years NBC documentary “Victory At Sea” as the shows big ballad “No Other Love”. 1958 saw a young Jerry Herman write the little remembered revue “Nightcap” for which he wrote a rather lovely show tune with the rather original title of “Show Tune”, then eight years later he used the tune again in the rather more well known “Mame” as “It’s Today”, and indeed wrote yet another lyric for it as the title song to his compilation show “Jerry’s Girls” in 1985. So whatever the rights and wrongs are on re-using a tune Lloyd Webber is in very good company. Almost every successful composer has utilized a “trunk song” (yes there is even a term for it) at some time or another. Fraulein Schneider, in particular can back this up as “Maybe This Time” was an album track for a young Liza Minnelli many years before it found it’s way into the screen version of “Cabaret”.

So now that I have commented on some of the criticisms levelled at “Love Never Dies” you may be wondering what I thought of it myself. In short I loved it, enjoying it far more than I have ever enjoyed “The Phantom Of The Opera” and believe that it’s Andrew Lloyd Webber’s best score since “Evita” full of romantic and sweeping melodies the likes of which are too rarely heard in the West End in these days of rock compilation musicals. Ramin Karimloo gives a towering performance as Paris’s former Opera Ghost particularly in his stunning first act number “’Til I Hear You Sing Once More” that proves he is one of the best voices ever to grace the musical theatre stage. Equally sublime is Sierra Boggess as Christine Daee and I can only hope that this former Little Mermaid’s career has legs and we get to see much more of her in the future. Of the supporting cast Summer Strallen shines and does everything that Summer can do so well and shows us that she has well and truly inherited those Langford genes and Langford legs!

The opening projections which ethereally create the back drop of Coney Island are mesmerising as they magically draw you into the carnival with carousel horses and twinkling lights . Bob Crowley’s set designs are stunning and very much in the spirit of Maria Bjornson’s work on “Phantom”. Where as, I believe, Ms Bjornson took much of her inspiration from the art of the period such as Edgar Degas, Crowley seems to have taken similar inspiration from the Art Nouveaux school and his designs particularly evoke the work of Alfonse Mucha and the architecture of Albert Guimet in sumptuous fashion. Along with it’s majestic score all of these elements combine to provide a lush and dramatic nights entertainment at the Adelphi.

If all the internet chatter is to be believed the show is still likely to be tweaked a little before it makes the journey to Broadway and any attention it receives can only improve on what is already a delightful evening at the theatre. Personally I would have liked the shows final moments to have ended with a couple of bars of the title song to give it the rousing finish it deserves. But listen to me, it seems I am starting to show signs of “ownership” myself. It must be catching!

Sunday, 4 October 2009

If You Were Wondering

Well, it’s been a while since I introduced you to one of my Really Useful People , so I thought it was high time that we caught up with a couple of my previous subjects and see what they are up to now.

Firstly, erstwhile “Rusty”, Adam Ellis has had a successful run in “Pirates Of Penzance” at the Union Theatre and is shortly to make his debut in “Chicago” as Mary Sunshine. So if you want to see Adam strutting his stuff and all that jazz head on down to the Cambridge Theatre at Seven Dials.

So that’s what Adam is up to but now it’s time to find out what the Captain did next. Captain Von Trapp that is, in the shape of Simon Burke. Since leaving the London Palladium production of “The Sound Of Music” Simon has filmed an episode of “Hustle” and most excitingly made his debut at New York’s prestigious Carnegie Hall. Currently Simon is appearing as Georges in “La Cage Aux Folles” at London’s Playhouse Theatre and has also managed to find the time to release his debut album.

The beautifully titled “Something About Always” is a collection of songs that Simon has performed on the world’s stages, giving his fans an opportunity to have a permanent reminder of his big moments from the musicals. The title, of course, is a lyric from his current role with “La Cage’s” “Song On The Sand”, it is possibly one of my favourite Jerry Herman songs although it tends to be neglected on recordings in favour of the shows mega-hit “I Am What I Am”. Simon’s version has all the tenderness that the song conjures up in an imaginative, yet simple arrangement that utilizes the show’s title song.

For those of us who saw Simon’s turn in “A Little Night Music” at the National Theatre around a dozen years ago, we finally get to have his take on “In Praise Of Women”. It’s not necessarily a song that works well out of context but as he took over the role of Carl-Magnus he was the only one of the principals I saw who did not feature on the cast recording. Therefore for the completists amongst us it’s quite nice to add his rendition to our collections! He neatly follows this with “Sorry-Grateful” from “Company” which almost gives it a context as both songs deal with the trials of tribulations of marriage.

Having played Billy Flynn in “Chicago” and “Billy Crocker in “Anything Goes” it’s only right that we get to hear Simon’s “All I Care About Is Love” and “You’re The Top”. The latter features the delicious Caroline O’Connor in a duet of the Cole Porter classic. It’s another Porter song, this time from “High Society” that sees Simon reuniting with his very first Maria Rainer, Connie Fisher in a touching version of “True Love”. Undoubtedly this track is one of the album’s highlights.

As in the case of “Night Music”, Simon was a “take over” in “The Sound Of Music” so is not featured on the productions cast recording, however he addresses that fact by adding the shows paean to home “Edelweiss” to his collection. He follows this with a celebration of his own homeland, Australia entitled “My Country”. Personally this is probably the song I am least fond of on the album, but in all fairness I am not an Aussie. As the album’s quite an intimate one, with just a small band of musicians I just felt that this was one song that really needed a fuller musical accompaniment to do it justice. It’s definitely the more tender moments on the album that work best.

My personal highlights from the album are probably the lovely “What More Can I Say” from William Finn’s “March Of The Falsettoes” and two songs that I have never previously heard. Opening the proceedings we have a song from fellow countryman, Peter Allen called “If You Were Wondering” which I am sure will become a real favourite of mine. In closing Simon selects a delightful little song, which I believe he chose as the song that best sums him up back in my interview with him. So finally I got to hear “The Cuddle Song” and very sweet it is too!

Simon is in fine voice throughout and, as I mentioned earlier, he is at his best on the album’s more tender and reflective where his voice and the small band are at one with each other. I’m not sure whether it’s his intention but I found it quite interesting that his song choices take us on a journey chronicling love in all it’s many facets, ecstasy and heartache, romance and even patriotic love. While “Something About Always” is not a definitive overview of Simon’s career, the album does give a great taste of what he has accomplished so far. Perhaps when he does a follow up with a bigger band we will also get to hear a taste of his other roles such as Marius in “Les Miserables” and “The Phantom Of The Opera’s” Raoul. Until then we have “Something About Always” to tickle our taste buds.

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Baby Look At Me!

High kicks and high fidelity, jock straps and leg warmers, big egos, big talents and sho sho sho shorofsky. Leroy Johnson, Doris Schwartz and Bruno Martelli. Friday night’s gonna be alright, Starmaker and if you don’t know by now what I am talking about the immortal words of Lydia Grant will give you a final clue. “You want fame? Well fame costs, and right here’s where you start paying…in sweat!”

Yes, of course, I am talking about “Fame” which for many of us who were growing up in the eighties was a pretty big deal. It’s hard to believe that it’s twenty nine years since the original movie was released and I can’t be the only one who is intrigued by the forthcoming remake which is scheduled to be released later this year. I suppose the timing is pretty good…with shows such as “American Idol” and “X Factor”, and of course “High School Musical” keeping audiences entertained on both sides of the Atlantic, plus the other movie musicals of recent years there is probably more potential interest in this saga of theatre students than at any time in the last thirty years. We can only hope that it’s not another “Britannia High”

Back in 1980 when Alan Parker’s original movie was released it didn’t make much of an impression on these shores but two years later the spin off TV series was launched and became an overnight success spawning hit records and a concert tour as well as a the odious trend of leg warmers! It really caught the imagination of many of us, and I remember well the excitement of getting “The Kids From Fame” on cassette. My favourite song on the album was “High Fidelity” the first single from the series which was incidentally sung by Valerie Landsburgh who played Doris – my favourite character. It has to be said that it really is a dreadful song but very much evokes 1982 for me if I ever hear it. A couple of other hit singles followed and for a couple of years “Fame” was big business, and somewhat of a phenomenon. They even came over and played in concert at the Royal Albert Hall. Over the first two years they had five hit albums but by the third series the albums had stopped and as the original “kids” started to leave they were replaced by new ones who didn’t seem to have quite the same magic. The scripts became more and more formulaic and less and less viewers actually tuned in. So 1985 saw the BBC broadcasting “Fame” for the final time with it’s fourth series. I must admit I was quite sad that we never got to see the last two series’ over here, and if they ever get a DVD release I am sure I will end up buying them.

As for the new movie? Well, the trailer looks great (and far better than the West End stage version which I have to say I hated) and the soundtrack album is also worth a listen. The title tune and “Out Here On My Own” have both been retained from the original movie and are given great renditions by Naturi Naughton. Most of the rest of the score has a contemporary R & B feel and is really listenable, additionally you get Megan Mullaly from “Will & Grace” (who plays one of the teachers) singing a cracking version of Rodgers & Hart’s “You Took Advantage Of Me” . Also playing teachers (though not on the album) are Kelsey Grammer and Bebe Neuwith – yes that IS Frazier Crane & Lillith. Last but not least stalwart of the orginal series Debbie Allen makes a cameo appearance as Principal Simms, whether we are supposed to think that this is Lydia Grant in a later, married, incarnation I don’t know….but I would like to think so.

Schmaltzy it may have been but to paraphrase one of Debbie Allen’s songs from the series in my heart “Fame” will always have a very special place.

“Fame” is released on 25th September