LOCAL THEATER: 'Fame' Lives Forever ... for Four Weeks at CSTOCK
By Michael C. Moore
September 21, 2010
Andy Baker obviously didn’t get the memo sent out decades ago by W.C. Fields, about the treacherous nature of working with kids and dogs.
For his first directing assignment at CSTOCK, Baker is helming “Fame,” an exuberant musical filled with — you guessed it — kids. Save for a few grown-ups who play various teachers, the cast and chorus consist solely of teenagers playing students at New York’s High School for the Performing Arts.
And the dog? Baker brings his pooch, a well-behaved silky terrier named Jack, to the rehearsals.
Fields might well be barrell-rolling in his crypt, but Baker’s non-plussed.
Baker most recently was onstage locally in Bremerton Community Theatre’s production of “Cactus Flower.” The director of that show, Trina Williamson, also is artistic director at CSTOCK.
“She asked me if I’d ever be interested in directing, and I said of course I would,” Baker said. “She said she’d keep the possibility in her back pocket.”
Baker — a veteran of 15 years of stage work around the area — originally was recruited to direct “Grease,” but CSTOCK had that musical pulled when its owners decided to re-release the film version as a sing-along.
“‘Fame’ made perfect sense as the show to go with,” Baker said. “It’s the same time period, and it has the same appeal, even though they’re two completely different shows.”
Best of all, “Fame” — adapted for the stage by David De Silva from the 1980 film blockbuster he produced — is a true ensemble piece, offering lots of opportunities for all those aforementioned teenagers to show their stuff.
“There’s not just one or two characters being focused on,” Baker said. “It’s really a kind of slice of life for a teenager, so you follow all these different characters.”
The show, with music by Steve Margoshes, lyrics by Jacques Levy and a book by Jose Fernandez, has been on stages around the world almost relentlessly since it opened in Miami in 1988. Though it’s never had a Broadway run, it held court off-Broadway in 2003 and 2004, has practically been a fixture in London and has toured everywhere from the U.S. to Estonia, Beijing, Hong Kong and Australia.
Clearly, the little potboiler about vibrant, multi-ethnic, multi-cultural kids thrown together in pursuit of their dreams of fame, has some shelf life.
“I haven’t seen the movie in 15 years, and when I found out we were going to be doing it, I forced myself not to watch it,” Baker said, adding that he discouraged castmembers from watching it, as well. “The show is different from the movie. And I just wanted a clean slate.”
Other than the title song, the show didn’t really generate any radio hits, probably because the music was intended to help drive the narrative, rather than sales.
But the music touches a lot of bases, with everything from classical to rap represented as the students (there are 10 at the center of the story, surrounded by a chorus of classmates) deal with their angst and ambition and go through their coming-of-age paces.
That ambition and angst all resonate with young actors, as well — many of whom, in the CSTOCK company’s case, might have performing arts careers of their own in mind.
Not to mention, the retro aspect of the show is just plain fun.
“The ’80s, a lot of time, get sort of glossed over a lot of the time, except for the bad fashion trends,” Baker joked. “I think everybody is enjoying expesriencing a little slice of what was going on back then.”
Of course, Baker does have a few cast and crew members who actually lived through the ’80s. Charles Platten (also Baker’s vocal director), Sharon Greany and Janet Barton, music director Trina Williamson and choreographer Lynn Galletta are the Voices of Experience.
“It’s great for the kids to get to work with some of these people who have been treading the boards for so many years,” said Baker, a 2000 Bremerton High graduate who was himself in that situation not so long ago. “It really teaches them a lot.”
So, the kids are pretty easy to deal with. And the dog ... no problem. Maybe Baker got the memo and just ignored it.
Who: Central Stage Theatre of Kitsap County (CSTOCK)
What: Musical by Steve Margoshes, Jacques Levy and Jose Fernandez
Where: Silverdale Community Center, 9729 Silverdale Way NW
When: Sept. 24 to Oct. 17; 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 6 p.m. Sundays
Tickets: $15 to $10
Information: (360) 692-9940, cstock.org
Kathy Berg | CSTOCK The cast of CSTOCK's "Fame!" rehearses the big finish to one of the show's production numbers.
Kathy Berg | CSTOCK Miss Bell (Janet Barton, left) and and Miss Sherman (Sharon Greany) don’t see eye to eye.
Kathy Berg | CSTOCK Nick Piazza (Colton Myers) confides in Serena Katz (Julie Fedorko).
Kathy Berg | CSTOCK Julie Fedorko, as student Serena Katz, rehearses a number from “Fame!”
Kathy Berg | CSTOCK Sharon Greany plays Miss Sherman in CSTOCK’s production of “Fame!”
Kathy Berg | CSTOCK Joaquin (Xavier Euzarraga) and Iris (Johanna Svensson) get their ballet on.