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Home > Reviews > Iconic '80s show tackles still-tough subjects
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November 15, 2006
Daytona Beach,FL

By JANETTE NEUWAHL
Staff Writer

PALM COAST -- There are the plays that transport the audience members into a historical period they may have only thought about.

Then there are others that draw on the not-so-distant past. These are relatable; they depict real life. And done well, these shows are often more powerful to the younger audience than, say, a Shakespeare reproduction onstage today.

"Fame The Musical" is one of those shows. Set in the 1980s, the high-energy performance chronicles the journey taken by a new crop of students through the rigorous New York School of the Performing Arts. Along their four-year paths to stardom, the students encounter plenty of bumps in the road.

But the play, which opens at Flagler Auditorium on Thursday, can appeal to all ages because it demonstrates universal challenges for adolescents -- whether they're destined for stardom, or not.

For example, Tyrone Jackson, played by Flagler Palm Coast High School sophomore Marshaun Hymon, faces the tough reality that he has dyslexia, a reading disorder that often causes words to appear backwards.

Student Serena Katz, played by FPC senior Jill Vanderoef, struggles with a crush on her acting classmate, who tells her he doesn't feel the same way. And Carmen Diaz, played by senior Jessica Lanich, admits to her friends she is addicted to caffeine pills.

Serious moments like those are broken up with intense dance choreography, which keeps the frenetic show moving quickly. Choreographed by FPC alum Teena Bianco, the dancing numbers often spring from classroom practices where -- when the teacher is not looking -- students do their own creative interpretations. The '80s-style songs, which are played by a pit band, are used to express their feelings.

FPC Drama teacher and director Mary Beale said she chose "Fame" as the musical because it gives a lot of students the chance to have a lead role. But the snippets of dialogue interrupted by dance routines make the play rigorous for the actors as well.

"It's a challenge because they have to create a character in 55 lines that changes over a four-year period," Beale said. "There's a lot of music and dance, but not a lot of lines."

To make the nearly three-hour show authentic, Beale cast FPC teachers and alumni to act as the New York school's instructors.

Physics teacher Phil Bourguignon said although it's hard to grade papers and attend rehearsal, he is enjoying his role as music teacher, Mr. Sheinkopf, where he uses an accent to berate the students on their musical abilities. FPC math teacher Rose Laurence plays English teacher Esther Sherman, who has to convince the budding artists that academics are important supplement to their performance-based classes.

"It's wonderful to work with kids in another capacity," Bourguignon said. " To see these kids and the talent they have -- it gives you a lot of hope."

Teachers aren't the only ones serious about getting into character. To understand her role, senior Jessica Lanich researched the behavior of those who are addicted to drugs. Senior Kyle Carlson, who plays a Puerto Rican student named Joe Vegas, dyed his hair black for the part.

Since school began, students started working to synchronize their dance moves and to get into their characters. They said that anyone who comes to the show should be able to absorb part of the exhilaration permeating from the stage.

"There's so much energy and everyone's so excited to do this," Lanich said. "The audience will be too."

janette.neuwahl @news-jrnl.com

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