'Fame' cast faces tough task
By Fiona Soltes • FOR THE TENNESSEAN • July 12, 2009
Fame, the movie, television series and musical about life in a 1980s performing arts high school, offers a bittersweet taste of drug use, ambition and young love.
In the hands of Nashville's Circle Players, however, the musical production also becomes a collaborative effort with other nonprofits, an opportunity to showcase a wide variety of dance styles and a testament to the "I'm gonna live forever" credo as it opens the company's 60th season this month. Look for performances by members of Music City Salsa in various scenes; participation by Oasis Center, a nonprofit that helps teens overcome serious challenges; and a "big, bold" production featuring several area performers who can sing, dance and act.
"It's a challenging show, so in auditions, we were looking for those 'triple threats,' " says producer LaTonya Turner. "For a community theater organization, that's something that's not often tackled. . . . Many of the people in this cast are new to Circle Players, and that's something I'm really pleased about. I think it represents the success of the organization, and says to me that there's a broader interest in community theater than people might think."
Though many of the young cast members — ages 16 and up — don't remember the 1980s firsthand, choreographer Kate Adams-Johnson does. She remembers, too, being a cast dancer as the musical was being "workshopped" by creator David De Silva close to 20 years ago.
"This is a show that's near and dear to my heart," Adams-Johnson says. "And it's been neat to sit on the other side of the table and work on the show that way. With some musicals, you have a couple of dance numbers or dancing that isn't very extensive, but this is a very extensive dance show. Which is fun, but it means there's definitely a lot more choreography to learn in a short amount of time. You really have to have dancers for this show. You can't just have movers."
Adams-Johnson says that she has been surprised by a few of the changes that have been made in the show since its inception; the final version has now been seen in more than 25 countries, and an updated version of the movie is scheduled for release this fall.
"There are whole sections that I remember very vividly, and other sections we just didn't do back then," she says. "There's been a lot of, 'Where's the . . . ? No, that's not in the show."
In keeping with the 1980s theme, she had to do "a little bit of research" to make sure the moves were appropriate for the time. But overall, the piece offers a message that is still "timeless and relevant," she says, as well as an energy that's contagious.
"The first day we went into rehearsal, we put on the song 'Fame,' and the entire cast just erupted," she says. "There were people dancing all over the room. There are certain songs, certain pieces of music that people hear, that just brings them back to that age of, 'I want to dance, I want to have fun, I want to perform.' Whatever the decade is, that's still the same."
Director Tim Larson admits he considered changing the show to another time, but he didn't want to stray too far from the author's intent. Besides, it gave him the chance to have somewhat of a "costume contest" for the photo shoot, allowing each member of the 24-person cast to come in his or her own interpretation of the '80s.
"I'm really looking forward to it all coming together," Larson says. "I think it's going to be a pretty amazing show."
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