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Home > Reviews > "Fame" mixes cheese, funk and great performances.

By Danielle C. Belton, Californian staff writer

Popular on the London stage, "Fame the Musical" is one of those things, like the musical "Blood Brothers" that are big in the British Isles, but barely make a ripple in the States.

Because of that rarity mixed with the film "Fame's" notoriety, it made a logical pick for the Spotlight Theatre's fall opener show.
Starring a cast of newcomers and directed by first-time directors Justin Brooks and Kat Brinkley, "Fame The Musical" played to sold-out houses both opening and Saturday night with people drawn to the dancing, music and young vibe of the hard-hitting show.

Featuring a slamming live band, violinist included, and some adventurous dancing choreographed by Marvin Ramey, the show teetered between funky fun and the cheesy, after-school flick aftertaste of the Jose Fernandez written piece.

But a trio of actors managed to slam their way through the hammy schmaltz, ditch the cliche and make the stock roles of the class clown, the child actor and the saucy delinquent.

It was Zach Sanders, Brian Brown and Christina Teves' show. Even if the cliches become trite for some, their performances do not. Sanders and Brown are great physical comics and Teves is a show-stopper, never the more evidence than when she sings "In LA" with such a beautiful desperation that you forget you're watching a non-profit, community theater show.

Sanders, long and lanky with a Topher Grace-like charm, plays child star "Nick Piazza" while Brown plays "Jose 'Joe' Vegas," the resident comedian who slams though his scenes like a young Sam Kinison.

Together the duo have amazing comic timing and energy.

Teves plays the hotcha "Carmen Diaz," destined to hit the road to ruin as the most ambitious in her quest for fame. Teves is also the strongest performer in the show, a triple threat at song, dance and acting.

For a first show, co-directors Brooks and Brinkley don't come off as neophytes. The show's action moves at a clip and all the action is full of heat and life.

Although the play sometimes drags, through no fault of anyone, because of the material, Brooks and Brinkley make sure you always have something to entertain your eye, be it the beautiful, chalk drawing-like backdrop of New York City, the live band or just the faces of the background actors who remain attentive and in character throughout.

And no face is more animated than young Haley Sullivan, who takes what could have been an unbearably cutesy role, the part of "Grace 'Lambchops' Lamb" and manages to be a lively creature you can't take your eyes off of even in a crowd.

Only a kid, Sullivan has already pulled her own "Victor/Victoria" at the Spotlight, playing the male lead in "big The Musical" and now playing a girl drummer in "Fame."

Although there are some racier bits, it's appropriate for some junior high and high schoolers as the musical presents nothing your high schoolers aren't already dealing with. For those older, this is a rock musical, things get loud and histrionic (it's a musical about teens after all), so plan your trip to "Fame" accordingly.

Also, the musical only shares one song with the film version, the title track "Fame" which Teves handles like a pro, so don't be too disappointed when no one bursts out a ditty about a "Hot Lunch."

As posted by Roger Mathey on September 14, 2005 at 12:40 AM


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