WHEN producer Bill Kenwright asked Gary Lloyd to revive Fame The Musical for a 2014 British tour, the director and choreographer had only one proviso.

“I wanted to bring it into the 21st century,” says Leeds-born Gary, whose production plays the Grand Opera House, York, from Monday for a week. “The show has been around for so long, even if we haven’t seen it for a while, but to warrant being successful again, I believe it needed a different format and feel, especially because ‘fame’ means something different now. Young people don’t care how they get fame now. Fame back in the1980s meant sustained success, working hard and being good at what you’ve trained for. Now they don’t have that sense of longevity or a will to work hard; they want instant fame.”

Gary’s facelift for Fame has involved a different musical treatment for the familiar songs, courtesy of Bill Kenwright’s musical supervisor Tom de Keyser, Gary Hickeson and the new show’s musical director, Andy Ralls.

“It’s not that we’ve remixed the whole thing,” says Gary [Lloyd].

“Some of the songs have been stripped back to make them more intimate and tell the story a bit more, so it’s a re-orchestration rather than a remix. It’s now set in the modern day and it’s worked from the actors’ point of view because they’re so young and are graduates, or a couple of years beyond graduation, and relate to the time a lot more. We’re getting something that’s a lot more real, a lot more gritty.”

British audiences are more switched on to the social issues in Fame now, says Gary. “Those issues are a little more understood in this country than they were when Fame first came out in 1980 because we swept a lot under the carpet for 15 years,” he says.

“Now we’re dealing with social issues like learning disabilities and drugs. There’s a broader understanding.

It feels the time is right todo this with the show.” Fame’s 2014 re-boot comes with mobile phones and the character Schlomo Metzenbaum is “not just a classical pianist; he now makes music on his laptop too”, says Gary.

“We’ve also had to cut some of the ‘fat’ from the characters and make the social issues harder-hitting. The 1980 film was based on reality. The one thing the director Alan Parker did was allow the music and dance to come through the storytelling and concentrate on the characters.

That’s what I wanted to do with this production.”

David de Silva, who conceived and developed the original stage version of Fame, has participated in the makeover too. “I’ve kept him in the loop and he’s been very supportive,” says Gary.

“He’s a very sharp guy and is into websites, tweeting and all of that. Shows like Glee, High School Musical and Step Up have taken Fame’s inspiration and done something modern with it. So we want to take this step forward with Fame.”

A young cast was essential for the update, which features contemporary, ballet, flamenco, tap and street dancing. “I wanted to cast ‘quadruple threats’ in this: not only do they have to sing, dance and act, they need to play instruments as well,” says Gary.

“The acting is very strong. We’re telling the story, not just stringing a story together with song-and-dance numbers.”

Fame has a special place in Gary’s heart. “It goes back to me being nine and the movie coming out - I’ve just given my age away there - and being responsible for doing what I do now,” he says.

“The film inspired me. There was nothing else like it until Michael Jackson. We’re updating it for a new generation that, hopefully, can be inspired in the same way.”


Actors back in class for updated show

JOSEPH Giacone’s first brush with Fame with a capital F was last summer when he appeared in a production of Fame - The Musical in Stevenage.

Now he has gone back to school, the world famous High School for Performing Arts in New York, for another term. This time he is in a new updated production of the show about the star-struck wannabes seeking you’ve guessed it, fame.

“I’d heard the song, the anthem, but never seen the TV programmes or films, so it was all new to me last year. This production has brought it forward to 2014, but kept to the truestory of Fame,”says Joseph, who can be seen at the Grand Opera House in York from Monday. “The generation of today that, like myself, haven’t seen the film or the TV programme can get into it as well. They can get the feel for it and revisit what the 1980s TV show brought to it.”

He played the same character, Joe Vegas, in Stevenage as he is playing on the eight-month UK tour of Fame – The Musical, which has enjoyed seven West End runs since premiering in the United States in 1988 and continues to be performed all over the world. Fame is his first experience of touring in this country. He is looking forward to it, not least performing the opening sequence of the show that introduces the characters to the audience. “It’s just the most incredible 15 minutes. You get the buzz and feel of the new audience and its such an exciting number to get through,” he says.

Another cast member, Alexzandra Sarmiento, has first-hand experience of the Fame school. The American performer trained there, although it is now known as Fiorello H LaGuardia High School of Music and Art & Performing Arts.

Alexzandra, who is playing music student Grace “Lambchops” Lambon the tour, said: “Dance was the first thing I found for myself, that I fought for to really pursue, and because of that intensity and drive, that’s why I excelled in that area and loved it so much. I’m just so grateful to do it on stage as a profession, which is what being in such a performing arts school teaches.”

Alexzandra goes where the work takes her. She was over here last year in the London revival of A Chorus Line and appeared in Cabaret with Will Young. “I understand he’s a big celebrity over here but I don’t know who he is; he’s just my friend,” she says.

• Fame The Musical, Grand Opera House, York, Monday to Saturday, 7.30pm plus 2.30pm, Wednesday and Saturday, March 22. Box office 0844 871 3024 or at atgtickets.com/york