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A FULL REPORT ON THE KIDS FROM FAME’S CONCERT AT THE ROYAL ALBERT HALL, LONDON ON DECEMBER 30th 1982.
BY JILL ECKERSLEY
We all knew they could do it – and they did! The Kids from Fame literally stopped the traffic around the Royal Albert Hall on December 30th, as hundreds of excited fans poured in to see New York’s hottest talents in person. And they certainly lived up to our expectations! Everyone came out of the two hour show feeling that they knew Debbie, Lee, Erica, Carlo, Gene and Lori just that little bit better than they knew them from the TV screen.
The Albert Hall wasn’t the ideal place to hold a Fame show. It’s much too big and impersonal for what was basically a friendly, informal, almost intimate evening, true top the spirit of the series. But all the same, the Fame cast still managed to project their personalities even in so vast a hall. As well as being talented singers, actors and dancers, they came over as real people wanting to tell the audience how they felt about being in England, being on stage, being stars, and about each other! As well as the well rehearsed, show-stopping dance routines and the songs we all know and love, there was plenty of joking and gossip and laughter too!
It only needed a little imagination to transform the Royal Albert Hall into a rehearsal studio at the famous New York School of the Arts as the dancers did their limbering-up exercises to open the show. Then there was a burst of applause as dancer and choreographer Debbie Allen (Lydia), bright as a butterfly in yellow, hit the stage, followed by Erica Gimpel (Coco) in purple, Carlo Imperato (Danny) in orange, Gene Anthony Ray (Leroy) in stripes and Lori Singer (Julie) in red.
They looked exactly like their TV selves – young, fresh and exuberant – as they swung into their first number, which, of course, was the signature tune, “Fame”. After that, it was non-stop entertainment as the team dazzled us with some of the slickest dancing London has seen since “West Side Story”. At the end of “Body Language” they let dozens of balloons float up into the rafters. Debbie tried to give one to a tiny fan in the front row but she was too shy to collect it!
Gene Anthony Ray’s entrance in an amazing pair of pink Spandex pants was greeted by roars of “We love you, Leroy!” from the crowd. He sang “Lay Back And Be Cool”, winding up with a dance routine and an incredible back somersault that had us all gasping.
By contest, Lee Curreri (Bruno) sat down at the piano and sang us one of his lovely dreamy ballads, after quipping that he didn’t feel he could lay back and be cool in front of 4500 people! It was interesting to hear about Lee’s early struggles to establish himself as a performer and musician, which, he said with a chuckle, consisted of “Doing club dates and hearing thousands of different versions of “My Way” and “Feelings”!
Then Lee introduced Erica Gimpel to us. In a red sweatshirt and denim skirt, Erica told us the lesson she had learned from being in Fame was that you had to believe in yourself. “It’s what you carry in your heart that makes you different from everyone else, especially these days when fashions like designer jeans make everyone look the same,” she said, before launching into the song, “Be Your Own Hero!”
Erica then handed the vocal spotlight to Lori Singer, who wished us all love, joy and peace in 1983. “It’s in our hands if we just work for it!” she announced, and had us all right with her. I had never seen anyone dance with a cello before, but Lori managed it, and she dances as beautifully as she plays.
From then on, the highlights came thick and fast, like Debbie’s show-stopping “shimmy” routine, in a white fur coat and red dress, accompanied by four of the Fame dancers whom she later introduced to us.
Then Lee came on stage with a list of answers to the most common questions they get asked by their fans. That’s when we discovered that they don’t use a double when Julie plays her cello – it really is Lori Singer playing all that beautiful music – and that nobody knows what Gene looks without his braids! Carlo Imperato really does talk the way his TV character Danny does – it’s his natural Bronx accent we’re hearing and they never use a double when Bruno plays the piano (“Just for the speaking parts!” Lee joked).
The first half of the show ended with a vibrant and colourful version of “Desdemona” starring Gene as Othello…..with apologies from Lee for stealing the story from a certain William Shakespeare! After that the team launched straight into “Starmaker” and got the whole audience joining in.
The second half of the show opened with smoke bombs and all the dancers appearing in black leotards and silver wigs, expect for Debbie who was in purple. They gave us a tremendous version of “High Fidelity” and when she got her breath back, Debbie paid tribute to the management company, the conductor Barry Fasman, the vocal coach, orchestra and especially the very talented Waters family who provided the backing vocals.
Debbie then took a break while Gene sang “Mannequin”, accompanied by the Fame dancers walking around like artificial dolls – a spectacular piece of choreography! After that, Lee took the tempo down with another of his beautiful soft ballads, done as a solo at the piano, and Debbie joined him to sing “A Special Place”.
One after another the others came out on stage to join them for a medley of hit songs from the albums, interspersed with jokes from Carlo, such as: “My body was just made for ballet…..you wanna see my best move”; and some amazing dance routines, including one which featured Debbie and Gene wearing glitter braces over their costumes..
The climax of the evening came with the gospel-style number “Life Is A Celebration”, and it was no wonder that the entire Albert Hall was on its feet by then, refusing to let the Kids leave without at least two encores, including a reprise of “Fame” and a personal kiss from Carlo to a couple of surprised nurses in the front!
It was a real thrill for us all to see our TV heroes in reality, and the very nicest thing was that the Kids from Fame seemed to enjoy the show every bit as much as we enjoyed watching it. The enthusiasm, warmth and vitality which made the TV series such a worldwide success smash hit sent us all out into the chilly London night feeling that maybe life is a celebration, after all!
This interview was provided to me by Elaine.