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'Fame' a feast of youth, dreams and talent

The Maui Academy of Performing Arts' "Fame" cast features (from back left) Haily Herberger, Rachael McMillan, Molly Khalil, Dominick Lagattuta, Melanie Ash, Allaurah Botoli, (front row) Troy Fox, Katerina Dominguez, Jesse Chin, Dru Glass Garcia and Katie Iannitello.

Maui Academy of Performing Arts / MARTI KLUTH photo

By JULE WIND, For The Maui News
August 23, 2006

Did you spend your summer vacation bettering yourself? Perfecting your talent?

Some of Maui's most talented teens spent summer camp in the pursuit of fame – that would be “Fame: The Musical.” Already produced once in July, this perennial favorite plays again for the next two weekends. Go see it, or go see it again.

It's possible that “Fame,” as the song says, may “live forever.” This is why: high-energy song and dance routines; teen angst over drugs, sex and rock 'n' roll; 14 lead roles with an ensemble backup of almost 20; great costumes, music and stage design. Fun. Celebration.

“Join in a celebration of the arts, youth, talent and dreams,” writes Maui Academy of Performing Arts Director David Johnston in his program notes. “At its heart this show celebrates that fragile and fleeting moment when life presents itself to a group of creative, exuberant students full of possibilities for work, life and love.”

First a film in 1980, then a television show for six season seen in 68 countries and now one of the top-produced stage musicals in the world, “Fame” continues to inflame the hopeful hearts of the young, gifted and theatrical. A brief search on the Web showed ongoing tours and productions in The Netherlands, South Korea, Croatia, Finland, all over the United Kingdom and in almost every American state and Canadian province.

The story is based on a New York City performing arts high school where students struggle for artistic and academic excellence, while trying to overcome teen issues of identity and acceptance of self and peers and teachers.

“Fame” producer David De Silva, known as Father Fame on the fan sites, was himself a high school teacher who became interested in the performing arts magnet school and the pressures on its pupils. He put together a light story with heavy music and dancing, and with the help of writer Jose Fernandez, composer Steven Margoshes and lyricist Jacques Levy ended up with a winner.

This particular MAPA production, the end result of the summer camp, stands out from the run-of-the-mill “Fame” shows.

Alannah Pascua is a little girl with a big voice, and she does a wonderful job with the character of fame-driven and self-destructive Carmen Diaz. Jesse Chin, another of the many stars of Baldwin High School, plays the tough hood Tyrone Jackson, equally at home rapping in the hood or on the stage. He and lithesome ballerina Haily Herberger are a joy to watch in a pas de deux, and their acting matches their fabulous dancing.

One of my favorite numbers in this show stars Katerina Dominguez in the role of Mabel Washington, whose see-food diet gains her the other dancers' disdain. She does a punkishly cute song and dance with “Mabel's Prayer” about the starvation of dancers, ending with a squish scene that has all laughing.

A few more comedians deserve special mention: Troy Fox does a great job with class clown/perky player Joe Vargas; and Tommy Rogers takes an ensemble part and makes it shine with impeccable physical comedy.

Much of the story's tension revolves around the nonlove affair between Scott Russell, as the overcommitted and underemotive Nick Piazza, and Christina Sutrov as the overeager and under-restrained Serena Katz. Both actors bring an insightful maturity to their roles, Christina especially shining in her role as Juliet, and Scott in the fabulously costumed “I Want to Make Magic.”

Students also credibly play the teachers: Sharleen Lagattuta as the stern Miss Sherman, DeeDee Elliot as Ms. Greta Bell (hard to believe that she is not a ballet mistress in real life), Chris Ferrer as Mr. Meyers and Kai Johnson as Mr. Sheinkopf. Especially enjoyable is Sharleen's rendition of “These are My Children” and the duet by Sharleen and DeeDee “The Teachers' Argument.”

The musicians in the rock band are Tristan Miller-White as Schlomo Metzenbaum, Akane McCann as Grace 'Lambchops' Lamb and Miles Kelsey as Goodman 'Goody' King. Tristan sings the lovely duet “Bring on Tomorrow” with Alannah. Musicians Marcus Amarosa, Peter Della Croce and Marti Kluth make it all come alive behind stage

MAPA's production utilizes Kluth's impressive musical talents to blend the voices of 34 kids into a whole. Daniel Bissler created a high school set with the sometimes awkward Steppingstone stage area. Rebecca Gerry choreographed a large diverse cast in interesting and compelling numbers.

The ensemble members are actors Kanaan Amoncio, Cade Betancourt, Alexandra Cannon, Nicole Joslin, Lauren Olsen and Olivia Walton; dancers Melanie Ash, Allaurah Bortoli, Dru Glass Garcia, Katie Iannitello, Molly Khalil, Dominick Lagattuta and Rachael McMillan; musicians Jonathan Belen, Kelsey Carbonell. Natasha Joslin, Sarah Lagattuta and Sydney Roberts.

Be sure to get tickets early – the first show in July was a total sellout.

 

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