WATERVILLE — Waterville again finds itself in the national performing arts spotlight, having been chosen to host the U.S. premiere of the theatrical production of "Fame Forever," the sequel to "Fame, the Musical."
The Waterville Opera House will be the venue for the Sept. 21 show, which had its international premiere May 3 in Glasgow, Scotland.
Auditions will be held the first week of June, with people from all over Maine and beyond expected to turn out for a chance at stardom.
"We will be the first place in the United States that will do this show -- it's just amazing," Opera House Executive Director Diane Bryan said.
Bryan said events around the opening will be similar to those that took place when the HBO movie "Empire Falls," filmed mostly in Skowhegan and Waterville, premiered at the Opera House.
Debra Susi, who directed "Fame" at the Opera House last year, will direct "Fame Forever." After the premiere, performances will continue at the Opera House on Sept. 22 and 23 and Sept. 28-30.
"Fame Forever" producer David De Silva conceived, developed and produced the 1980 Academy Award-nominated picture "Fame" and worked on the stage version, which came later.
He chose Waterville for the premiere of the sequel after visiting the city last summer and meeting with Bryan.
"I heard that Waterville had done 'Fame' last year and very successfully, so having researched what theaters had done the show in the last year, I discovered Waterville," De Silva said Thursday from New York. "I went up to meet with Diane Bryan and one thing led to another."
De Silva, who also was consulting producer of the television series, said he loves the Opera House.
"I think it's great," he said. "It's beautiful; a lot of ghosts in that theater -- a lot of history."
De Silva will attend the U.S. premiere with Ben Winter, who wrote the books and lyrics, and Steve Margoshes, who wrote the music for "Fame Forever." Susi's musical director will be Michael Peterson of Oakland.
Susi and Bryan met with De Silva in New York in February to iron out details, and Susi went to Glasgow for the international premiere.
Susi said the premiere will be a great opportunity for Waterville and all of Maine. "It's going to be important, I think, from all aspects, that we deliver a quality performance," she said.
The original "Fame" is about students who audition for the New York City High School for the Performing Arts. It follows their struggles and triumphs.
"Fame Forever" takes place 20 years later and reveals the fate of some of the original characters.
De Silva said he thinks the production will speak for itself.
"It's a great score and I'm looking forward to the opening," he said.
The cast of up to 50 includes a 12-year-old boy, several men and women ages mid-20s to 55 and an ensemble of teenagers, according to Susi.
"I want to look at 35 to 45 outstanding talents because there are going to be people here They'll want to see the show up on its legs, brought to life."
Susi, is director of theater arts at both Maine Central Institute and Warsaw Middle School in Pittsfield.
"What I'm most excited about," she said, "is what this will do for Waterville, for central Maine, for the Opera House, for the actors in the area. I'm really, really excited about that."
She said Mainers should never think of the state as isolated when it comes to such possibilities.
"We can be just as much in the thick of what's going on in the world, artistically, culturally and technically, as any place else," she said.
Rehearsals will start shortly after auditions, she said.
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