Review

 

This stage musical inspired by the 1980 film (remade in 2009) depicts the last class of the School of Performing Arts before “PA” moved to the new building in Lincoln Center and combined with the High School of Music & Art to become LaGuardia Arts in 1984. We see the high school students from their orientation to their graduation, dealing with high school things like grades, drugs and, most importantly, their desire for artistic Fame. Which, of course, makes it apropos for high school students to actually perform the roles, as do these performers of ACT-San Diego.

Haley Doyle stars as fame-obsessed Carmen Diaz, loosely based on Coco (Irene Cara) from the film. Haley knocks out her songs including the lead in the title hit and the more dramatic In LA with terrific vocals and great stage presence. Peter Hoban is Schlomo (the synthesizer-playing Bruno in the movie) who has a good genuineness about him as he becomes Carmen’s best friend and joins with her in the ballad Bring On Tomorrow. Sarah Pence is a fun and lively Mabel. Torrey Mercer is an amusing Serena Katz who isn’t quite sure about her relationship with former child actor of peanut butter commercial fame Nick Piazza (Hunter Schwarz) who is now a little irritated by his fame as he focuses and strives to become a serious actor. The two of them share a humorous and well-sung Let’s Play a Love Scene duet. Matt Maretz is an irrepressible class clown with a big Bronx accent as stand-up comedian Joe Vegas who just Can’t Keep It Cool around the ladies. Spencer Meredith plays dancing phenom but illiterate student Tyler Jackson (based on Leroy Johnson in the movie) who falls for the classically trained ballerina Iris Kelly (Beth Abramowitz), the latter inspiring Tyler to learn to read. He leads the big rap number that includes pulling a few audience members out to dance on stage, and then follows it up leading Dancin’ on the Sidewalk that includes great singing, dancing, and staging with a slideshow of the streets of NYC in the background.

Jose Fernandez wrote the book for this stage version of Fame. Like the movie, it tries to do quite a lot by working in several subplots of students and teachers over a four-year period. The movie plot did so fairly well, including some strong dramatic moments and deeply personal, mature themes. The stage version is mostly un-dramatic with one-dimensional characters, but many of the new songs by Jacques Levy and Steve Margoshes aren’t bad, and if not a very compelling storyline, it at least gave the performers some opportunities to shine.

Director Leigh Scarritt helps you overlook some of the show’s inherent weaknesses with some nice touches, some comedy, and a lot of razzle dazzle, going all out with great energy and excellent vision for the visuals. Those visuals include one of the arts excluded from the show, having Tristan Detwiler painting on a canvas to the side of the stage throughout the first act. 

The ensemble is a talented bunch, from young kids to a couple adult teachers, who are dynamic and precise as they dance to Tiffany Jane’s cool choreography. Shawn Jones’s set and Charlie Malings’s lighting keep the stage splashy, while Staci Vanderwiel’s costumes range from typical high school fare to sharp-looking coordinated and contemporary costumes for some of the big production numbers. Tim McKnight’s band rocked the score.

Performed January 22 - 31, 2010

Rob Hopper
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Executive Director
National Youth Arts

~ Cast ~
 
 
Nick Piazza: Hunter Schwarz
Serena Katz: Torrey Mercer
Joe Vegas: Matt Maretz
Tyler Jackson: Spencer Meredith
Carmen Diaz: Haley Doyle
Iris Kelly: Beth Abramowitz
Mabel Washington: Sarah Pence
Schlomo Metzenbaum: Peter Hoban
Grace "Lambchops" Lamb: Lindsay Mitgang
Goodman "Goody" King: Marc Akiyama
Goody's Bandmate: Anthony Rodriguez
Lead Singer in Goody's Band: Karina Rodriguez
Miss Esther Sherman: Sayta Chavez
Ms. Greta Bell: Gina Simms
Ms. Myers: Jennifer Fasulo
Ms. Sheinkopf: Kelsey Spelich
Graduation Speakers:
Sara Atun
Michelle Cohen
Mariangela Nava
Vanessa Sharif
Morgan White
Dance Soloist: Krystal Lockhart
Ballerinas:
Julia Bernicker
Esme Birndorf
Felicity Bryant
Michelle Cohen
Kaia Crusberg
Sophia DeLange
Angelle Ivie
Emily Kirby
Mariangela Nava
Natasha Partnoy
Emma Rasse
Lou Rasse
Elizabeth Rott
Dominica Savant-Bunch
Lillian Shallow
Vanessa Sharif
Morgan White
Featured Ensemble:
Amy Atun
Sara Atun
Kaitlyn Baker
Gracie Condon
Tristan Detwiler
Maddy Fitzgerald
Moriah Grant
Brianna Hebert
Carissa Ivie
Gabrielle Ivie
Krystal Lockhart
Carla Nava
Megan Phillips
Kelly Prendergast
Victoria Ross
Jessica Samuels
Victoria Sharif
Evelyn Sparks
Julia Vanderwiel
Kelsey White

Director: Leigh Scarritt
Musical Director: Tim McKnight
Choreographer: Tiffany Jane
Stage Managers: Jamie Cabral and Derrick Gaffney
Production Assistants: Amanda Gustafson and Christian Smith
Lighting Designer: Charlie Malings
Set Designer: Shawn Jones
Parent Volunteer Coordinator: Vinni Brown
Costume Designer: Staci Vanderwiel
Props: Beth Mercer
Program and Business Manager: Barbara Maisel
Program Cover Design: Andy Detwiler

~ The Band ~
Pianist/Conductor: Tim McKnight
Drummer/Percussionist: Spencer Harris
Bass Guitar: Daniel Oldham
Guitar: Tim Shaw
Keyboard: Marc Akiyama
Alto Saxophone: Anthony Rodriguez

   

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