March 21, 2009
A generation before there was "High School Musical," there was a musical high school.
"Fame," Spring Valley High School's spring musical, treads the same ground as the 1980 film and the subsequent TV series: following the lives of students and faculty at New York City's High School for the Performing Arts, or "P.A."
Junior Alex Domini plays Nick Piazza, a former child star (of national peanut-butter commercials) who comes to the Fame school to become "a well-respected and legitimate thespian."
"As a freshman at the school, he's serious - a little too serious for his own good - and as the show goes on, everyone becomes as focused and serious as he is," he says.
In the song "I Want to Make Magic," Domini says, "Nick can't express how much he wants to be on stage, so he has to do it through song - because it's musical theater. It's about how he wants to perform, to make people happy, to entertain."
"It's easy to relate to," says the junior, "because theater is something I want to do as a career choice. So I totally understand when he says 'I want to breathe fire on the stage and make every single line jump right off the page.'"
The song catches Nick twice - once as a freshman and then as a junior. In Act 1, the song establishes Nick's character: He's the hard-charging, focused one. In Act 2, he is older and it's more an inner monologue, Domini says.
"For the reprise, the passion's still there, it's just not giving everyone third-degree burns. It's a nice, warm feeling," he says, adding, tongue firmly in cheek, "because I do that in real life, too. I make up songs as I think about intense situations in my life."
The performing-arts high school is an intense place, as the cast sings in one of the opening numbers, "Hard Work." In it, actors, dancers and singers proclaim that their chosen discipline is the most difficult career in the world.
One of those characters is Carmen Diaz, played by senior Kristen Santos.
"She's star-driven and sure that the world is going to know who she is," Santos says. "But she's really stubborn and doesn't listen to anyone. She's a triple threat and she can make it, but she doesn't know how to put her talents to work."
Like Nick, Carmen comes to P.A. having tried the business. She failed in a trip to Los Angles and arrives with that memory fresh in her head.
Santos says her character's roller-coaster of emotions is presenting more of a challenge than Peggy Sawyer, the girl she played in "42nd Street" a couple of years ago.
"It's hard to go there," she says. "To find those emotions."
Still these characters dream of greatness and Santos sings the title song, "Fame," the one song everyone in the audience over a certain age will likely know.
Junior Dominique Pettit-Mickens and senior Jenna Ford are dancers in the ensemble, appearing in their first musical.
"There's a lot to learn and a lot to memorize," Pettit-Mickens says. "It's fairly hard."
She looks at the musical, and the dance classes she's taken under director Stacey Tirro, as a chance to "broaden my horizons."
Ford, 17, a standout on Spring Valley's basketball team, says the musical is "hard work, but it all comes together."
She has studied dance - ballet, tap and jazz - and had been in recitals, but not the musical, because of conflicts with basketball.
"My senior year, I really wanted to do the musical," she says.
Where: Spring Valley High School, 361 Route 59, Spring Valley.
With: Alexa Gibney, Alex Domini, Chris Mazis, Stephanie Laurdent, Kristen Santos, James Murray, Lindsay Strasser, Horatio (Joey) Andrean, Allyson Rose, Jahmar Davis, Juliette Collazo, Veronica Agard, Chris Smith, Gabriel Gonzalez, Jenna Ford, Elya Shavrova, Tendrina Alexandre, Renee Evans, Ruthann Hannah, Esoshani Barton, Dominique Petit-Mickens, Bianca Pierre, Alexandra Leslie, Jessica Butler, Emily Littman, Albert Mendoza, Israel Colon, Nadege Isidor, Esther Jean-Baptiste, Ashley Niedelman, Melissa Neils, Aliza Martinez, Gabriel Felix, Gladys Alonzo, Nina Navarro, Cindy Raymond, Tony Luciano, Charlotte Collazo, Salome Odera, Anderson Watson, Shana Henry, Sarah Omer, Ruta Patel, Erica Laoiza, Michael Villegas, Malaysia Shells, Stanley Beauvoir, Johnson George, Nadia Omer, Helar Aricaya, Branden Hunt, Warren Cherry, William Adu-krow, Seth Kofinas, Erik Haaland, Marina Tokareva, Alexandra Spiteri, Ruthann Hannah, Igor Lashkul, Jeff Kish, Melissa Iglody, Maria Martinez, Jeff Kish, Julie Ventura, Conrad Swietek, Mike Delpup, Chris Russo, Aadesh Boodoosingh, Rajesh Boodoosingh, Claudia Salinas, Aliza Martinez, Anthony Speziale, Kasey Clairsaint, Caylin Acosta, Ashley Rouzier, Miljana Monic, Paige Berman, Dylan Griffith, Lauren Griffith, Brian Leslie, Andrew Bronson, Meghan Poli, David Bryant, Atiya Raja, Nikki Cole
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