Civic Theatre's NEXTWAVE program revives 'Fame: the Musical'
By Roger McBain
EVANSVILLE — She wasn't yet born when the movie "Fame" came out, but "Fame: the Musical" is no period piece, assures Kensington Blaylock, director for Evansville Civic Theatre's NEXTWAVE production of the show.
Like the 1980 movie that spawned a TV series and this show, "Fame: the Musical" follows a group of students pursuing their art and their dreams at New York City's High School of Performing Arts. The show deals with the exhilaration, the disappointments and the coming of age of a group of stage-struck young students as they grapple with their ambitions, their passions, their sexuality and encounters with drugs.
The language has changed a bit, and the clothes have changed more, "but it's still relevant today," says Blaylock. "You see kids going through the same things they've been going through for decades."
Blaylock is a University of Southern Indiana graduate who's preformed in college, community and professional theater, taught theater and directed shows for her own ThinkPink! production company.
When Chris Tyner, Evansville Civic Theatre's managing artistic director, asked her to direct "Fame: the Musical,' she only knew the title song from the show. She'd seen episodes of a TV show inspired by the movie, but she'd never seen the film, "and I stayed away from it, once I knew I was going to direct this," she said.
She was happy to take on the directing assignment, however. From shows she's performed in and directed and from students she's coached "I knew so many talented young people," she said. "It seemed like a great opportunity to work with some kids I already knew."
She wound up with a cast of 25, which includes Blaylock in the role of Miss Scheinkopf, a teacher; and her fiancé, Brandon Eck, as Mr. Myers, another teacher.
Blaylock only stepped into the teacher's role when another cast member dropped out, she said. The cast features local high school and college students and other young adults, with ages ranging from 14 to 28.
Some of the show's language is strong, and its story deals with sexuality and sexual identity issues. "There's some adult subject matter, but it's only as adult as any kid in high school might know about," Blaylock said.
It's also loaded with entertainment, with a score of songs and dance numbers choreographed by Ashley Frary to music by a five-piece band led by music director Patrick Ritsch.
This show recalls the movie, but offers a fresh score and sound. "The message is still the same, however," she said, "and so is the youthful exuberance."
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