Want to be a famous star? Do you know yourself well enough to handle it? A whirlwind of stylistic changes have transformed musical theatre performance since David De Silva’s stage adaptation based on the film Fame debuted in 1988 in Miami, Florida, as Fame on 42nd Street. Still, its core issues – the intense desire for outside recognition in parallel with developing self-worth and humble work ethic in teens in a performing arts high school setting – give it continued resonance. Junior Players’ production at Dallas City Performance Hall under the comprehensive, well-coordinated co-direction of Bruce R. Coleman and Valerie Hauss-Smith validates the work’s entertainment value while giving its youthful performers an excellent educational experience on a major stage under professional conditions.
With eleven songs in Act One and ten in Act Two, most involving ensemble dance as well as significant lead solos, the twenty-seven performers stay on top of scene and mood changes with fluency and never flag in telling the story with energy and clarity. Opening night January 7 the orchestra tended to drown out soloists in Act One, but that issue resolved itself by Act Two. Upbeat, visually bright and lively, it connects directly to the heart and spirit of emerging artists striving to find meaning and satisfaction in their endeavors and relationships (not too different from the regional high school talents performing in the production). The ensemble hails from the following schools: Highland Park High School, Hockaday School, Carroll High School, W.T. White, Booker T. Washington HSPVA, North Forney, Thomas Jefferson, Moises E. Molina, Irving High School, Van Alstyne High School, Greenhill, Jack E. Singley Academy, and Cedar Hill High School.
Pleasingly sophisticated performances emerge. Madeleine Norton mixes a burgeoning, sultry demeanor with teen-aged wistfulness and impatience as Serena Katz and voices her songs “Let’s Play A Love Scene” and the feminist-spirited “Think of Meryl Streep” with a full, rich mezzo-soprano that could earn her some element of “fame” if her interests carry her that direction. Ryan Cameron on drums in the “band” scenes hits some licks that make one sit up and pay attention. Dar’ren Agers and Elizabeth Drake play believably together as dancers with different lifestyles and expectations who find a common bond of affection through personal revelation. Their Act Two “Pas de Deux” works as one of the most emotionally effective numbers in the show. Dru Miers creates a very sympathetic lead character in his squeaky clean, charismatic pianist “Schlomo”, the browbeaten, privileged son of a famous violinist. His awakening appreciation for the edgy, drug abusing Carmen ( perky Maya Quetzali), revealed with shy nuance in their Act One duet “Bring On Tomorrow”, shows honest command of the stage. With choreography that conveys a gritty studio ethos without trying to “go all Bob Fosse” by Donna Murray, this production could go down pretty famously in Junior Players’ archives. Massive digitized visuals projected upstage add an iconic dimension and polished look throughout the performance.
Fame continues Saturday night at 8pm and Sunday at 2:30pm at the Dallas City Performance Hall. Tickets are available at www.juniorplayers.org.
Music direction by John Norine Jr., scenic design by Jeff Schmidt, lighting design by Christopher Trevino, costume design by Cayla Tally and sound design by Technical Director Dane Tuttle.
Fame was performed Off-Broadway at the Little Shubert Theatre on 42nd St from 2003 to 2004 and has played at some of the most famous, respected venues in the world.