CAN Fame live forever, just like the predictions of the show's theme song? It's certainly joined Joseph and Blood Brothers as the musicals guaranteed to fill seats outside panto season.

These days the set is wobblier, 1980s leg warmers are reduced to spat-style socks and somehow Eminem, Rap and Hip-Hop form part of the language of the students from New York High School of Performing Arts.

But the legion of Fame fans whoop every muscular move from Tyrone Jackson (played by Craig Stein) as the dancer "with attitude" who can't graduate until he learns to read.

Gladdening North-East hearts was the welcome sight of Delia Harris, a product of the Newcastle College of Performing Arts, making her professional debut. Harris has landed the comedy role of "who ate all the pies?" Mabel Washington and shines as the food-consuming dancer turned character actor.

James Haggie is probably the strongest Joe (Jose) Vegas, the frustrated Puerto Rican stand-up comic, I've seen in the many touring versions of David de Silva's pulsating, vibrant and thought-provoking look at the price of showbiz stardom.

Nearly everybody dreams of being plucked from obscurity and thrust into the spotlight, with megawatts wages to match, which is why Fame - despite the tragic lesson of drug-taking Carmen (Leila Benn Harris) - retains its grip on so many fans.

The show's producers remind us that UK theatre now earns more foreign currency than banking or the car industry, but that still doesn't excuse the talentless wannabes who besiege so many talent hunts. Hard work, the Fame doctrine, is still the answer.

* Runs until Saturday. Box Office: (01325) 486 555

Published: 23/02/2005