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