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Home > Past Buzz > Fame Passes Stage Test

November 30 - December 6, 1999

Scale of musical's choreography and staging matches that of its protagonists' aspirations.
By Ed Kaufman

Cats, we are told, have nine lives. As of this time, "Fame" has already had three: as a smash hit 1980 motion picture, a long-running TV series and now as "Fame - the Musical," a staged rock musical spectacular at Hollywood's Pantages theatre through Sunday.

And it's still terrific; a boisterous, charged show that's full of spirit and energy. It's also a tribute to the notion that with teachers who really care, young motivated American students from all walks of life can achieve success. Or in this case, fame.

As conceived by David De Silva (a.k.a. "Father Fame: and a New York educator), with book by Jose Fernandez, lyrics by Jacques Levy and music by Steve Margoshes, "Fame - The Musical" incorporates a couple of our pervasive American myths: that of the melting pot coupled with the notion that the American dream can be fulfilled with hard work and a lot of sweat.

Of course, it also helps if you have a lot of talent. These students have talent galore, only its still raw and they need the discipline to channel it. That's where the caring staff of instructors come in, including English teacher Miss Ester Sherman (Regina Le Vert and dance instructor Miss Greta Bell (Jennifer Simser). Add strong support by drama teacher Mr. Myers (Richard G. Rodgers) and music teacher Mr. Sheinkopf (Herma Petras).

Set in the 1980s in New York's High School of Performing Arts on West 46th Street, "Fame - The Musical" focuses on the dreams, hopes and aspirations of a group of talented and motivated students and their four-year odyssey at the school. Credit Norbert Kolb for the three-tiered set, Paul Tazewell for the colorful costumes and Richard Winkler for the effective lighting.

All of the students are outstanding as they dance (there are at least 10 big company dance numbers), sing (from rock to rap) and act their way through four years of high school: serious Nick (Darebn Ritchie); ugly duckling Serena (Sheri Sanders); showoff Jose (Jose Restrepo); restless Carmen (Natasha Neary); chunky Mabel (Catrice Joseph); girl drummer Lambchops (Amy Ehrlich); gentle Schlomo (Carl Tramon); streetwise and dyslexic Tryrone (Dwayne Chattman); ballerina Iris (Jessica Cohen) and trumpet player Goody (Jason Maniscalco).

Credit Lars Bethke for the savvy direction and choreography that never lose direction or pace. All of it's red hot.

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