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'Fame' fleeting, yet memorable production

'FAME: THE MUSICAL' BEECHWOOD HIGH SCHOOL

Review by Andrew Cone
Cincinnati Country Day School

Each of the students attending the School for the Performing Arts in New York City may be unique, but they all have a common aspiration: to be famous. This school is the focus of the justifiably titled musical, "Fame," which was recently performed by Beechwood High School. The talented cast paired with a resourceful crew made for a memorable show.

The story follows a class of exceptional students through four years of high school from auditions to performances and hookups to breakups. While Schlomo tries to help Carmen with her drug problems, Serena longs after a less-than-enthusiastic Nick, and Tyrone falls for his dance partner, Iris.

Both Rachel Flynn as Carmen and Robbie McMath as Schlomo were superb performers and anchored the show as solid leads. Their beautiful voices in their duet, "Bring on Tomorrow," was a highlight of the show.

The most natural of all the students onstage was Kyle Hill, who portrayed Joe, an uninhibited adolescent who "Can't Keep It Cool." Hill was at home with his character and was a hilarious entertainer.

Courtney Grimes played the shy Serena well and her desire for Nick (Seth Steenken) was very believable. Although some of Nick's songs would stretch any high-school student's range, Steenken did a good job managing and added a great sense of realism to the show.

Both Bill Kephart and Alex Jackson showed off their dancing talents in their respective roles of Tyrone and Iris. Other standout performers included Ashley Mann whose character, Mabel, worries that she'll become "the world's fattest dancer" and Paige Menke who took on the role of Miss Sherman, the most stringent teacher in the school.

Beechwood students participated in myriad aspects of the show besides performing and the lights, sound, and set were all executed excellently. Although there was no lack of fervor, there were times at which certain characters seemed to lack clear direction.

Although not all of the students of the School for the Performing Arts had success, all of the students of Beechwood High School did; their production of Fame was truly inspirational and a joy to watch.


Review by Lee Hong
Mt. Notre Dame High School

Beechwood High School recently took on "Fame" with all the flair of the 1980s, from energetic dance numbers to hopeful ballads for the future.

Rachel Flynn sparkled as the sassy Carmen who dared to be famous. Her brazen optimism in the title number commanded audience attention up to her devastating downfall in the poignant "In L.A." Kyle Hill portrayed the slick Joe with just as much style, especially in his hilarious number "Can't Keep it Cool."

Robbie McMath also gave a noteworthy performance as the nerdy Schlomo. As he became more confident in his abilities as a violinist and as a friend, his dynamic stage presence reflected maturation. Courtney Grimes also showed growth as the shy Serena who professed her feelings to the ambitious Nick (Seth Steenken). Her clear voice soared in the memorable "Let's Play a Love Scene."

Though somewhat limited by their roles, Alex Jackson, Hannah Prichard \and Joseph Hanna also showcased their talents as the graceful Iris, energetic drummer Lambchops, and rocker saxophonist Goody. Ashley Mann as Mabel almost stole the show with her blunt yet funny one-liners.

As an ensemble, the cast packed a powerful punch. Impressively, the cast sung partially a capella and with beautiful harmonies. The dance students (Rachel Craig, Sarah Downing, Jennifer Gray, Taylor Jones and Sondra Schroeder) danced challenging choreography with polished ease.

However, the actors weren't the only ones to show artistic talent. Bill Kephart rewrote lyrics for "Can't Keep It Cool," "Tyrone's Rap," and "In L.A." and effectively maintained the spirit of these songs for younger audiences.

Though faced with limited facilities, the crew was also able to work efficiently to recreate fast-paced New York City. Sonoka Ito quickly engaged the audience with piercing police sirens at the beginning of each act. Mary Whitehurst and Jeni Crone set the stage with rampant graffiti and weathered stairs. For the final touch, Will Hollis and the lighting crew balanced vibrant colors and intense lighting in energetic numbers.

With an incredible variety of talent, the cast and crew of Beechwood High School truly worked hard to bring this vibrant musical to life.


Review by Darcy Zacharias
Ursuline Academy

Beechwood High School's presentation of hopeful young artists was filled with emotion in its recent production of "Fame: The Musical."

Set in New York City's School for the Performing Arts in the 1980s, "Fame" intertwines the stories of musicians, dancers, and actors in their pursuit of artistic excellence and, of course, fame. The teenagers deal with dreams, disappointments, and dating over four years from school acceptance to graduation.

As Schlomo, a violinist burdened with familial expectations, Robbie McMath created one of the most genuine characters with his subtle presence. His clear vocal prowess brought a sweet sensitivity to his too-rare solos.

Rachel Flynn's vivacious performance as Carmen admirably showed the character's transition from ambition to addiction. Carmen's return from gritty L.A. after dropping out of school became one of the show's most poignant moments. Her belting voice was also showcased, most notably in the title number.

Comedic relief was provided in Mabel (Ashley Mann), a dancer conflicted with her love of food. In the hilariously soulful "Mabel's Prayer," she begs "save me from being the world's fattest dancer" with a background chorus of sympathetic ballerinas.

The ensemble of students also provided solid support. Adding enthusiasm and energy, the company formed a consistent collage of performances and hard work. Musicianship was also strong in group numbers, particularly in the cohesive "Bring On Tomorrow Reprise."

Shy actress Serena (Courtney Grimes) struggled with her own talent, gently inspiring herself in the earnest "Think of Meryl Streep." Her inhibitions were immediately obvious in her interactions with crush Nick (Seth Steenken). Despite their lack of chemistry, both were solid individual characters.

Beechwood's production of Fame showcased the varied talents of many performers as well as a contagiously peppy, '80s flair.


Review by Jane Lindahl
Cincinnati Country Day School

Beechwood High School's recent presentation of "Fame: The Musical" was highlighted with strong choral numbers and a handful of strong soloists. It radiated energy.

Among the best choral pieces included "Bring on Tomorrow Reprise" and "Mabel's Prayer." These numbers shone brighter than the other choral numbers because both provided an upbeat tone in addition to the actors working well together in a collaborative effort. Particularly in "Bring on Tomorrow," the harmonies and choreography were all in synch.

Standing out from the rest of the cast, the characters Schlomo and Carmen (played by Robbie McMath and Rachel Flynn respectively) carried the show with their talented voices and acting abilities. Both McMath and Flynn demonstrated character development from the beginning of the musical to the end.

"Bring on Tomorrow," sung by McMath and Flynn, was the standout number in the musical. With show-stopping sound and performance, this moving duet demonstrated how well these two actors interacted and sang together.

One of the aspects of the school in "Fame" was dancing. As Iris, Alex Jackson, flowed across the stage with such lucidity in her steps that she was the main focal point whenever she was on stage. Jackson provided the cast and musical with a much-needed sense of softness and grace.

While "Fame" did experience some technical difficulties, in addition to having some weak choral numbers and songs, it had numerous redeeming qualities. Beechwood put its best foot forward in their production of "Fame."


Review by Lauren Evans
Ursuline Academy

Put a group of teen aspiring artists from New York City in a one school for four years, and you've got "Fame: The Musical," the story of New York's School of Performing Arts students with big dreams. Recently, Beechwood High School's Theater Department did just that.

The plot follows actors, musicians, and dancers through their four years of high school. The dynamic cast faces love, death, failure, and success together as they work toward graduation and, ultimately, fame.

Beechwood High School's cast and crew demonstrated the pressure and excitement the high school students of the Performing Arts school felt with grace and enthusiasm. They showcased the talents of dancers and vocalists. The cast was flexible, also helping the crew during the set changes.

Carmen, played by Rachel Flynn, struggles with the idea of "instant fame" and the pressures of drugs and alcohol. Flynn captured Carmen's confusion, and developed her character as Carmen grew from a girl, desperate to fit in, to a young woman, tangled in the mess of a drug addiction. In her solo, "In L.A.," Flynn's vocal talents were showcased as she described Carmen's turbulent experience in Los Angeles. Rachel Flynn's overall performance had the audience cheering for more.

Schlomo, Carmen's love interest, was portrayed by Robbie McMath. During Carmen and Schlomo's duet, "Bring On Tomorrow," McMath's vocals blended perfectly with Flynn's, swelling the hearts of the audience as they sang of their dreams and aspirations.

Although the auditorium was small, Beechwood High School's crew did the best with what they had, renting stage lights and using a flexible set. Set changes were smooth, and the cast were heard clearly with the help of microphones set up on the stage.

Beechwood cast's musical, acting, and dancing talents made the show a huge success and left the audience inspired by a youth's dream to "live forever."

loveland@communitypress.com

 

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