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Starehe boys and girls perform ‘Fame’ on Friday
By BILL ODIDI

August 1 2013

“I want to live forever…I want to learn how to fly.”

It is impossible to forget these lyrics from “Fame” by Irene Care, an iconic 1980s pop song that was also the theme tune from the Academy award winning film of the same name.

Cara’s song was also used in the television drama series “Fame” that run from 1982 to 1987.

In later years, “Fame” was further developed into a stage musical by David De Silva, who had also produced the film, and was performed for the first time in Miami, Florida in 1988.

The stage version was developed separately from the film and TV adaptations, and although there are similarities, the scripts and book by playwright Jose Fernandez change some characters from the film.

The score for the musical was also completely re-written though Cara’s title song is retained in the performance.

Since its first production in New York’s theatre district, “Fame - The Musical” has been performed in almost every corner of the world, from Australia to South Africa to the Czech Republic, by professional and amateur groups and adapted into a variety of languages.

In Kenya, “Fame” has now been introduced to a whole new generation of performers who were certainly not born at the time the film first became an international hit nor when it debuted on stage.

This weekend, a cast of students from both Starehe Boys and Girls Centres perform a new production of “Fame - The Musical”, directed by two music teachers at the schools, Jennifer Moore and Ryan Searle.

Just like the film, the story follows a group of star-struck students through four grueling years of academic and artistic work at a performing arts school as they face challenges and experiences.

“This is a good story line with suitable morals for a young cast with modern music and dancing,” says Moore. Having a cast of high school students playing characters who are the same age certainly lends an air of authenticity about the story in a way that much older actors would not.

“It also contains many relevant themes exploring issues such as identity, prejudice, self-worth, literacy and encouraging hard work instead of pursuing instant success.”

Thanks to a UK charity called the Martyn Donaldson Music Trust, Starehe has received support for music education through volunteer teachers.

Moore has been teaching at the school through this programme and in March, she coached boys from the school to the finals of the Kenya Young Musicians Competition winning three of the six prizes.

“Starehe Boys and Girls Centres have some very talented students who achieve very good results in co-curricular activities like music and performance,” she says. “Most of the students have come to study music or be involved in the musical with no prior experience.”

The cast of “Fame” comprises 50 students from both centres. Auditions were open to all students in both schools and the number was then narrowed down to select the main parts and chorus.

The performers had to display acting, singing and dancing talent as well as commitment to rehearsals.

Moore seems quite pleased with the amount of work that has gone into preparation for the two-hour show. “The cast was always enthusiastic and willing to try new ideas in order to improve their acting and dancing,” she adds.

Tiffany Mungai is cast in the lead role as the fame-obsessed Carmen while Michael Muita is the violinist Schlomo who acts as caretaker to his classmates. Oliver Mugambi plays Nick, a serious actor and Winnie Wangari is the ambitious actress Serena who has a romantic interest in Nick.

The wisecracking comic of the show Joe is played by Kevin Nyasinga, Solomon Ndichu is Tyrone, the talented but dyslexic dancer and Judy Wanjiru plays the ballerina Iris.

Faith Nyasuguta is the overweight dancer and singer Mabel who despite her best efforts, “just can’t resist food.”

The purpose of putting on a show like “Fame” is to develop the talents of the students in music, acting, dance, technical, backstage and production.

The music teachers say such skills will allow the students to explore and communicate social issues like relationships, culture, love, disappointment, success and failure.

There are three days of performances at the Starehe Boys’ Centre, with the first this Friday at 7 pm and two shows on Saturday 3rd August at 2.30 pm and 7pm.

The last show takes place on Sunday at 2.30 pm. Tickets are available at the door at Sh200.

 

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