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Life imitates art in OSA's 'Fame -- The Musical" production
By Sally Hogarty
Posted: 02/05/2014

OAKLAND -- Whether it's art imitating life or life imitating art, it all comes together this month as Oakland School for the Arts (OSA) presents its own musical valentine to the community -- "Fame -- The Musical."

Set during the last years of New York City's celebrated high school for the performing arts, the show, which runs from Feb. 14 —16, tells the inspiring story of a diverse group of students following their dreams.

Based on the 1980 film and subsequent television series, "Fame -- The Musical," not only showcases the extraordinary talent of the students but also explores issues confronting many young people today: issues of prejudice, identity, self-worth, literacy, sexuality, substance abuse and perseverance.

"This show really makes sense for our students," said co-director and theater instructor Becky Potter. "The kids are these characters already. They really are telling their own stories."

According to Potter, "Fame" was the perfect choice for OSA, a nationally recognized public charter school housed in Oakland's historic Fox Theater.

"We looked at other shows, but this one just made a lot of sense. It really speaks to everyone," she said.

Potter co-directs the immense undertaking with Matthew Travisano, vocal director Branice McKenzie, music director John Kendall Bailey and choreographer Reginald Ray-Savage.

"This is truly a troupe collaboration. We have middle and high school students from eight different OSA Schools of Art collaborating together," Potter said. "They are all artists in different ways, but they are also so accepting and respectful of each other. It's really a neat atmosphere to be around where so many kids thrive."

Potter recalled a recent five-hour rehearsal that she terms "amazing" and said: "I was literally brought to tears twice.

"These dancers were doing a beautiful pas de deux that was mind boggling, and then we had vocalists rocking it till they gave me chills," she said. "It's just so cool to have the instrumental department create this amazing orchestra and Matthew, my co-director, gets these wonderful performances from the actors. It's really exciting to see all the parts of the school come together like this."

Adding their own unique talents to the mix, costume designer Linda Ricciardi incorporates OSA's school colors into her costume design while production/technical director Jean-Francois Revon and his students customize the scenic and lighting design.

"It's really OSA's take on the musical," Potter said. "We're true to the script while personalizing it for our students and community. It's sort of like a window into life at OSA."

While some of the performers play characters similar to themselves, others look to OSA faculty members for inspiration.

"One student who plays a dance teacher is, of course, a dancer herself," Potter said. "But she's also added a lot of our choreographer's qualities to her interpretation of her character. For instance, Reggie has a walking stick so she's added that to her character, and she even carries it the way he does."

Although OSA is housed in the historic Fox Theater and the buildings surrounding it, "Fame -- The Musical" takes place in another historic Oakland venue -- the Scottish Rite Auditorium.

"This is the third year we've done our all-school musicals there," Potter said. "It has a full proscenium plus a lovely U-shaped pit in the center. There's this big grandiose feel to it that awes the kids. And the folks who run the Scottish Rite are really great to work with."

"Fame," with book by Jose Fernandez and music by Steve Margoshes, plays at 7 p.m. Feb. 14; 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Feb. 15; and 2 p.m. Feb. 16 at the Scottish Rite Auditorium, 1547 Lakeside Drive, Oakland. ASL interpreting services will be available at the 7 p.m. Feb. 15 show. For more information, contact Michael Berry-Berlinski at Advanced tickets are available online at For more information, email or call 510-873-8807.

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