Fame began life in 1980 as a movie tracing the lives of a group of students at a performing arts high school in New York City, from acceptance to graduation. The film was a hit, with a million-selling soundtrack album featuring a Top Ten hit in the title song. Then came Fame, the TV series, which ran on network television from 1982 to 1983. Now, here is Fame: The Musical (so far, a national touring company, but not yet a Broadway show), retelling the story with a full musical score (the film had only a few songs) by composer Steve Margoshes and lyricist Jacques Levy. Margoshes is true to the early-'80s era, filling his score with synth-based dance pop crossed with typical Broadway-style choral music. Some of the material resists musicalization, notably comic character Joe Vegas' "Can't Keep It Down," a song about his uncontrollable erection, and street dancer Tyrone Jackson's confessional "Tyrone's Rap." Since the characters are mostly supposed to be teenagers with ambitions to become performers, there is an inevitable surfeit of naïve, hopeful material, some of which might have been better rendered in dialogue. Still, the whole score draws its inspiration from the title song, which has been borrowed from the film, and parts of it are similarly stirring. The cast of unknowns is good, but none stand out.
AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann