Circle Players debut 'FAME' sequel at MTSU
Even though members of the original FAME promised they’d live forever, there wasn’t much thought about what might happen to them in, say, 20 years.
With the exception of one man: David De Silva, dubbed “Father Fame” for his work in creating the iconic 1980s movie and musical about a New York performing arts high school, as well as being a consulting producer for the critically acclaimed TV show.
His latest venture in the franchise is the musical FAME FOREVER — Talent Springs Eternal, and he hand-picked Nashville’s Circle Players for a regional premiere opening this week. He became aware of the more than 60-year-old community theater company in 2009 when it staged a production of the first FAME musical, and director Tim Larson admits he thought it was a joke when he picked up the phone and heard De Silva on the other end.
“This is not a show he wants to take to New York,” Larson says. “He’s designed it more for community theaters to do, to put the word out about education, talent and how we pass those things along to our children.”
The sequel, which begins with the 20-year high school reunion of numerous original characters, takes place from 2004-2014; as time goes on, some of those characters have children attending the same performing arts school they attended. As for Carmen, the drug addict who dropped out and committed suicide in the previous tale, she returns as a spirit to see how her life influenced the others. The story is loosely based on 1935 novella, Forever, by Mildred Cram, and De Silva says he loves the idea of a creative spirit that lives on and can be reborn without memory. He enlisted the help of Steve Margoshes, who composed the music for the original, for the sequel; with the Circle production, music direction is by Ginger Newman, and choreography by Kate Adams-Johnson. Along with Larson, the show is produced by LaTonya Turner.
One aspect that has sweetened the deal for De Silva — who created the Father Fame Foundation to interactively promote theater arts in education and in life — is that Circle is producing the show in an educational partnership with Middle Tennessee State University. In conjunction with the reunion theme of FAME FOREVER, several MTSU alumni will return to the stage for the run.
“This is a very contemporary musical,” says De Silva, who plans to come to Nashville for the show. “I needed to grow with the idea of how time flies, what happens to kids when they become adults, and how life continues.”
As he revisited the characters, he discovered a story that wasn’t so much about being famous — though that was the original goal for the students of the arts magnet. (Then a groundbreaking concept, the real-life public school the story was based on boasts alumni such as Ben Vereen, Vanessa Williams and Al Pacino, among others.)
But the new story did give him an opportunity, he says, to convey that “any time you get involved in theater, it’s going to help whatever else you do in life.” And he is “thrilled” that Circle — which he considers one of the top amateur theater groups in the country — would be willing to take it on.
“Nashville is blessed to have this great community theater,” De Silva says. “It’s wonderful working with this group. It’s a combination of seasoned older performers; talented, fresh kids; a great ethnic mix; and a smart creative team…. This will be the seventh production of the show, and it’s something that grows each time. My feeling is that this will be the strongest ever.”
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