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FONTANA HERALD NEWS
AUGUST 29, 2004

'Fame' spins drama of performing arts high school in song and dance

By JIM BUTLER
Eagle Staff Writer

For Mekia Cox, art imitates life. After her family moved from the Virgin Islands to Orlando, Fla., the aspiring singer and dancer attended the High School for the Performing Arts in her new Florida home.

Tuesday and Wednesday, she will light up the Rudder Auditorium stage as one of the stars of “Fame,” a musical about students at a performing arts high school.

“ I play Carmen Diaz, a very fiery, very determined character,” Cox said from her hotel room in Cincinnati, Ohio, where the national tour was staying. “She wants what she wants when she wants it. She is considered a bad girl, but I think she just hasn't gotten on the right track. She doesn't want to pay her dues.”

Cox's family's move to Orlando provided plenty of opportunities for her to get experience.

“ I worked at Disney World and on Nickelodeon,” she said.

Cox attended Florida State University and graduated in 2003, then auditioned at the Southeast Theater Conference and got the part of Carmen.

“ It's been a lot of fun,” Cox said of her first tour experience. “I've gotten to go a lot of places I probably wouldn't have got to go. We've been to Saskatchewan, where they were having a warm spell of 20 degrees. We've been in California, and I'd never been to the West Coast.

“ Toni Malone, who plays Mrs. Sherman, is from Los Angeles, and she showed us around.”

“ Fame” was born as a 1980 movie about students at the New York High School of Performing Arts, the first government-funded school for the arts in the United States. The school receives 15,000 applications a year, and fewer than 1,000 students are admitted. Well-known alumni include Diahann Carroll, Eartha Kitt, Liza Minelli, Al Pacino, Billy Dee Williams, Carroll O'Connor and Ben Vereen.

The movie was turned into a television series that ran for six years in the mid-1980s and won several Emmy awards.

The musical follows the movie closely, Cox said.

“ It follows the students and teacher through four years of life, from freshman year to graduation,” Cox said. “There are love triangles between kids and kids, kids and teachers and teachers and teachers.

“ My favorite number is ‘Fame,'” she added. “It's tiring but fun because I get to dance on tables.”

Asked what she's learned from her first national tour, Cox said, “I learned that you have to take care of yourself. Doing this show takes a lot of stamina, so you have to stay in shape, eat right and exercise.”

Asked what she hasn't learned, Cox said, “I haven't learned to pack light. I'm probably the worst on tour.”

The national tour of “Fame” is produced by Phoenix Productions and presented by MSC OPAS.

• MSC OPAS presents “Fame — The Musical” at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday in Texas A&M University's Rudder Auditorium. Tickets are $32-$56 at the MSC box office (845-1234).

• Jim Butler's e-mail address is jbutler@theeagle.com .

 

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