Make no mistake, they’re going to live forever (like the song embedded in your head, a tumour out of remission). They’re going to learn how to fly (high!). They feel it coming together. People will see them and cry (Fame!).

Well, perhaps not weep. Clap, certainly. The starry-eyed young talent on stage here would make Johnny Young blush, worthy of adulation in a show hard not to hate. And damn it, I tried.

That’s right, pull on the leg-warmers, Fame is back. Whether you like it or not. The Australian revival of the mediocre-movie-turned-musical opened in Melbourne last week, before touring to Brisbane and Sydney. Fans of the 1980 film, and the long-running television show it spawned, will celebrate its return.

There’s plenty of reasons why you should see this new production: the desperately ambitious talent on stage — characters and cast — is so bright it almost burns the retinas, with new choreography from Kelly Abbey (who also directs) that, in the best routines (and the one the kicks off the second act is a cracker), genuinely dazzles. The story of a group of students at New York City’s, err, famed High School of the Performing Arts presents those with the widest grins, the fiercest air punches, the highest kicks with the chance to shine. And a bunch of So You Think You Can Dance? contestants a chance to eat. They do (think they can dance, that is), and they’re not wrong.

There are some seriously impressive pipe sets on stage, too, led by the guttural grunt of American soul sister Darlene Love as school headmistress Sherman. Her presence — Grammy Award winner and Rock and Roll Hall of Famer — is worth the price of admission alone. Love, along with her faculty sister Rebecca Jackson Mendoza and finalist from the aforementioned reality show Timomatic, compete with a booming band to just about blow the speakers.

There’s just one reason why you shouldn’t see this show: it’s Fame; as garishly kitschy as the decade it failed inevitably to glamorise. The characters and plot are as waif-thin as the leather ties inexplicably popularised in the ’80s. They, like Fame, should probably have remained buried in the time capsule. No such luck.

The show is all over in the blink of an eye, a pacey production almost instantly forgettable except for that damn tune that, truly, will live forever. Music to the ears if you loved it the first time around, however guiltily.

The details: Fame plays the Regent Theatre in Melbourne for the next seven weeks (tickets at Ticketek). The show opens at Brisbane’s Lyric Theatre on June 19 (QPAC has the tickets) before moving to Sydney later this year (there’s a wait list if you’re really keen — you could always give a fake name).

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey