UCLA DAILY BRUIN
By Michelle Zubiate
American musicals love to tackle a generation, a decade or a flash in time. For the 1950s, "Grease" invoked the spirit of fast cars, Pink Ladies and soda shop romances. For the 1990s, "Rent" gives the audience a taste of Generation X and the bohemian lifestyle in New York City. But for the 1980s, with its leg warmers, neon green headbands and supersonic sound, "Fame" is the resounding anthem of the decade. "It's a very special period," said David De Silva, creator of both the movie and the current musical opening tonight at the Pantages Theatre in Hollywood. "It is pre-AIDS awareness and pre-metal detectors. It's a more romantic, innocent period which is good for us. We had an actor in the White House at the time." But the new live version of the movie, on stage, has taken on a new vision and a new mission. A new score was created by composer Steve Margoshes. "Fame" is the only returning song from the movie and the audience will learn right away that it is an entirely new class. "It's the same concept," De Silva said. "But these kids are aware of the movie. The homeroom teacher tells the incoming class right away 'If you think you've come here because you are gonna live forever or you envision dancing on cars down 46th Street then you are humming the wrong tune.'" Considered "The Father of Fame," De Silva is a native New Yorker who believes New York City is the "soul of America." Graduating from Queens College, he started off his career interested in teaching, but his love for education and the arts combined to create entertainment with a social consciousness. Currently, "Fame" is the first show to hit all three mediums of entertainment: film, television and theater. The popular TV series featured talent such as famous choreographer Debbie Allen and music star Janet Jackson. As consulting producer for the series, De Silva found that it wasn't the best forum for his ideas.
"I didn't like television," De Silva said. "That's why I didn't really get too involved with the series. It's all committee, decisions and commercials. Movies are one thing and theater is another. I believe it is truly going to live forever on stage.
"On film, it is over once the camera stops," De Silva continued. "It is a celluloid print that is stuck in time as a dead thing already created. But with theater, no two performances are the same."
The musical is based off of a real performing arts magnet school in New York City, now called La Guardia High School of Music and Art, which produced such big names as Al Pacino, Jerome Robbins and Eartha Kitt.
"I believe magnet schools are the best education there is," De Silva said. "It takes kids out of their neighborhood when they test well for certain subjects and gives them more specialized teachers. It is the ultimate in democracy."
De Silva believes so strongly in the advocacy of "Fame" and its mission to promote such ideals as education, literacy and staying off of drugs that he created the "Father Fame" foundation to raise scholarship money for kids to receive the schooling they desire.
"He's a driving force in this show," said Carl Tramon, who plays Schlomo Metzenbaum in the musical. "You can see in his eyes that he is continuing his own dream. He loves kids and teenagers and wants to make a change."
Performing arts have been a part of Tramon's life since he was five years old when he played Michael in "Peter Pan" on Broadway.
"I think everyone has a little bit of a dream to perform," Tramon said. "'Fame' allows them to go back to that little place in their fantasy and relive that."
Tramon loves "Fame" for the opportunities it brings him to combine all his talents on stage from acting to singing to playing piano and the violin. It also provides a philosophy and vision that Tramon agrees with.
"The musical recognizes that every person is an individual that needs to be respected," he said. "It isn't the apple pie America that people always paint. There's no beating around the bush with the issues, but at the same time it isn't preachy. It is very much reality-based."
Currently the musical is being performed all over the world in places such as the Netherlands, Denmark, Australia and Japan. The "Fame energy," as De Silva endearingly refers to the phenomena, joins forces on the Web to respond to fans and the "Father Fame" foundation through Famenetwork.com.
"What it shows me is that there are a lot of talented kids around the world," De Silva said. "What I've created is a blueprint for young choreographers and directors to do their own thing and come out through this material. It's exciting to see a universal energy coming through the American musical."
The Fame Network makes it very easy for kids to get into the Fame act by allowing easy licensing for schools to perform their own versions of "Fame" as long as two productions aren't running in the same city at the same time.
"This is something new for kids," De Silva said. "What we've had so far is this Andrew Lloyd Webber thing where you always need an agent to get an audition. There's nothing in that for the kids. For many, 'Fame' is their first job."
THEATER: "Fame" opens tonight at the Pantages Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard. It runs through December 5. Tickets are $22- $47. For more info call (213) 365-3500. Nov 23,1999
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