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Home > Past Buzz > Fame Hits the Warsaw Stage

Radom, Off Broadway
7 December 1997

After its rapturous reception in Radom, Fame hits the Warsaw stage.

The Polish version of the musical Fame, directed by Wojciech Kepczynski, premiered in Radom's Powszechny Theater. David de Silva, the author of the original musical, gave the Radom production full marks. Fame is playing in Warsaw's Komedia Theater through Dec. 15.

After the success of Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical, Joseph and His Technicolor Dreamcoat, Radom's Powszechny Theater has staged yet another hit. Fame was produced on a much more impressive scale, featuring state-of-the-art technical gimmicks and Poland's best-known performers. The show proved to be a box office hit even before the premiere, with 10,000 tickets sold in advance. Fame is co-produced by the Powszechny Theater and the Komedia. "It's probably the first co-production in Poland that involves theaters from different cities," says Wojciech Kepczynski, musical director, choreographer and Powszechny Theater's general director. "Thanks to the Warsaw City Council's financial support, we were able to buy modern lighting and amplifying equipment, including some 60 microports-miniature remote microphones-and a dozen light scanners. This has made Powszechny one of the best-equipped theaters in Radom." The production will cost a total of zl.450,000.

Fame's history began in 1980 when de Silva came up with the idea to film the story of students at New York's High School for Performing Arts. Many of its graduates have gone on to become world-renowned performers, among them Liza Minelli, Suzanne Vega, Al Pacino and Pinchas Zuckerman. The story of The Fame School students and their problems proved to be a captivating topic and the film received four Oscar nominations. A popular TV series with the same title was also made.

De Silva finally decided that Fame the musical would crown his success. The libretto was written by Jose Fernandez, the songs are the work of Jacques Levy and music was composed by Steve Margoshes-author of such hits as Tommy and Grease. The musical premiered in Miami, Florida in 1989. Since then, Fame has been staged on Broadway and in London, Zurich, Berlin, Stockholm and Budapest. Radom joined that list on Nov. 18, and Warsaw on Nov. 28.

"Our expectations are different when we go to a premiere in London or Berlin from when we visit a small town like Radom. That's why the Radom presentation impressed us greatly," commented de Silva, who came to Radom accompanied by Margoshes. "It's a great performance in a small theater. Kepczynski is a genius of the musical theater. He managed to bring together many gifted artists and get a very emotional response from the audience. The production is world-class and it could easily be shown in New York or any other city," added de Silva, with an enthusiasm shared by the Radom public-the premiere won a long standing ovation.

Fame's popularity has nearly caused the Komedia Theater to burst at the seams. The company includes 28 stage performers, 13 musicians, six chorus singers and 16 technical workers. "We had some problems with moving Fame because the Warsaw stage is much smaller," said Kepczynski before the opening. "It had to be expanded by removing the first few rows of seats. The orchestra will have to go under the stage, play right next to it or perform in the director's office. The dancers' performance would then be synchronized with the conductor's instructions via a camera and monitor system. We also had to give up some of the props." At the time of this interview, the Warsaw production of Fame looked like it would be lacking the most characteristic element of the musical's stage design, the big yellow Chevrolet purchased by the Radom theater through a newspaper ad.

Warsaw audiences are responding to the musical as enthusiastically as the Radom public. Tickets are selling like hot cakes. Since the last showing of Metro, the capital hasn't had any big musicals. The Buffo Studio concentrates rather on review-style shows. "I think it's a real shame that a big city like Warsaw doesn't have its own exclusively musical stage," says Kepczynski. "It's true that Poland doesn't have a tradition of musicals, but that is changing. This type of entertainment fills the niche between opera and operetta. Musicals became my passion when I was still in college, after I saw West Side Story. So far, I have produced a dozen shows across Poland. I guess you could say I'm lucky because I do what I love best."

Fame will return to the Radom stage in January and then again to Warsaw in February. It will also tour Kielce, Chorzów, Gdynia and Lódz. Kepczynski is already busy planning the future. "I think Grease would be a wonderful way of continuing our work," he says.

Marcin Mierzejewski


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