Camarillo Community Theatre brings 'Fame - The Musical!' to life
By Rita Moran
Fame is certainly enduring, especially if you consider "Fame — The Musical," conceived and developed by David De Silva, who also originated the 1980 film and subsequent TV series. As a stage musical, the show continues in its strong appeal to young hearts longing for careers in musical theater.
Camarillo Community Theatre brings in a mostly young and promising cast, with a few older folks to validate the setting, New York City's High School of Performing Arts. They play the teachers dedicated to starting the highly individual students on the path to achievement, if not stardom.
The book for the musical is by Jose Fernandes, with lyrics by Jacques Levy and music by Steve Margoshes. It says a bit about the songwriters that their meaningful and sometimes difficult-to-sing efforts are bolstered by Dean Pitchford and Michael Gore, who created the memorable title song, likely the only one you could hum on the way home. It truly is a song that may "live forever."
Early on in the musical a teacher encourages the students by pointing out that their class of fewer than 100 was selected through competition and interviews from among several thousand applicants. They are special and fortunate to have been chosen and are urged to do the hard work to validate that choice. As with any group, the class has some winners and some losers, but mostly a lot of dedicated, and hopeful, participants. The cast reflects the concept, though there are no "losers" here since just working together under skilled guidance is a character-building and talent-developing plus.
Still, audiences might keep in mind that CCT didn't choose the large cast from thousands, but from the willing and reasonably able from the area.
The most conspicuous cast members are Jessamyn Arnstein as the feisty Carmen Diaz and Christopher Mahr as Nick Piazza, the young man who wants to "Make Magic."
Arnstein is vivacious and throws herself into the role of the girl who wants to be on the fast track to stardom. Her big songs are the first version of "Fame" with the rest of the students and "In L.A.," where Carmen flees in a desperate attempt to make it big in a dangerous leap into a grown-up world that has seen all too many like her. Along with most of the cast's female singers, she has fine moments, but the range of the songs and the belting style built into them leads to uneven passages. Mahr's Nick is fortunate in that "I Want to Make Magic," his major song, is softer and sweeter and well within his range.
Hayley Silvers as the shy Serena Katz scores well with her wistful "Let's Play a Love Scene." Other good work is done by Adrian Bailey as the English teacher Miss Sherman; Michael Mario Castro as the irrepressible Joe Vegas, who gets the bawdiest songs and moves; Rodolfo Larrazolo, who brings the troubled Tyrone Jackson vividly to life; and Steven Silvers as the calm and reasonable Schlomo Metzenbaum. It's a mixed bag of characters and the actors give it a good go all around.
Director Courtney Johnson keeps the show moving with just a few awkward moments and choreographer Brandy Jones provides enough movement to make the dance element plausible. Angelique Daugherty is music director and Susan Treworgy provides the essential piano accompaniment from an onstage perch.
There are occasional glitches when the soloists and the sound system don't work perfectly together, blurring the lyrics, though some of the singers have fewer problems with that than others. When the entire ensemble sings together, they do make fine music.
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