Phoenix Productions' National Tour of Fame, the youthful high-octane song-and-dance musical inspired by the multiple Academy Award®-winning motion picture and the subsequent Emmy Award-winning reality-based NBC television series of the same name, returns to the Triangle June 1-6 as part of the Broadway Series South Encore Series. (Broadway at Duke sold out Page Auditorium last Nov. 17 for a performance of Fame, with the same director and choreographer and virtually the same cast. It received an enthusiastic and prolonged standing ovation at the final curtain.)
Like British director Alan Parker's award-winning 1980 MGM/United Artists motion picture Fame, with its Oscar-winning title tune by Dean Pitchford and Michael Gore and its Academy Award-winning score by Gore, and the subsequent highly successful 1982-87 television series, Fame the Musical was originally conceived and developed by David de Silva, a.k.a. "Father Fame." The musical features a book by Jose Fernandez, melodies by Steven Margoshes, and lyrics by Jacques Levy.
Fame the Musical debuted at the Coconut Grove Playhouse in Miami in 1988. The original production of Fame later played the Walnut Street Theatre in Philadelphia in 1989.
The current National Tour of Fame, smartly staged by director Bill Castellino and crisply choreographed by Joshua Bergasse, is set at New York City's famous High School of Performing Arts in the early 1980s. This coming-of-age musical follows 10 dance, drama, and music prodigies through four years of high school (1980-84) as they thirst for fame, hone their craft, fall in love, struggle with basic academic subjects, and cope with the common adolescent problems, including sex, drugs, crises in self-confidence, academic shortcomings, etc. These up-and-coming artists comprised the last class to graduate from the High School of Performing Arts' old building on West 46th Street.
In preshow publicity, Phoenix Productions co-founder and artistic producer Michael McFaddon claims, "The reason Fame is so popular with audiences is that it promotes the idea that success follows talent and dedication, but not without its share of highs and lows. Even with talent, there are victories and defeats, laughter and tears."
The popular performing-arts school current receives more than 15,000 applications annually for less than 1,000 slots, according the Broadway Series South press kit.
Famous New York City High School of Performing Arts alumni include Diahann Carroll, Janis Ian, Eartha Kitt, Shari Lewis, Liza Minnelli, Caroll O'Connor, Al Pacino, Jerome Robbins, Suzanne Vega, Ben Vereen, and Billy Dee Williams. Debbie Allen played faculty member Lydia Grant in the movie and the TV series, and Fran Drescher ("The Nanny") and pop singer Janet Jackson portrayed students in the series.
The cast for the National Tour stars Joe Carney as teenage acting veteran Nick Piazza, Megan Elizabeth Lewis as novice actress Serena Katz, Mekia Cox as lovely Latina songstress Carmen Diaz, Pablo Murcia as class clown and Freddie Prinze wannabe Joe "Jose" Vegas, Julie Burdick as dance prodigy Iris Kelly, Justin Speranza as nerdish budding violin virtuoso Schlomo Metzenbaum, Anthony Wayne as awesome African-American dancer/choreographer Tyrone, Elana Architzel as oddball drummer Grace "Lambchops" Lamb, and Kellee Knighten as aspiring (but overweight) dancer Mabel Washington, and David Rossetti as Goodman "Goody" King.
The show also stars Toni Malone as strait-laced English teacher Ester Sherman and Dana Baráthy as free-spirited dance teacher Greta Bell, with David DuPont (Mr. Sheinkopf) and Shawn Pennington (Mr. Myers) playing other faculty members.
"If you believe you're gonna live forever or envision dancing on tops of cars down 46th Street, you are humming the wrong tune!" warns Miss Sherman.
The ensemble for Fame includes Jeffrey Bailey, Gretchen Burghart, Brannon Chase, Mike Evariste, Tiffany Howard, Michael Jenkinson, Yashira Perez, Kiira Schmidt, and Kyle Vaughn.
In reviewing this troupe's Nov. 17 appearance at Duke University, Robert's Reviews wrote: "The Steve Margoshes and Jacques Levy songs provide the entire cast an opportunity to shine, and they do. Showstopping numbers include Megan Elizabeth Lewis's solo on 'Let's Play a Love Scene' and 'Think of Meryl Streep'; Kellee Knighten's comical complaint — in 'Mabel's Prayer' — about being the world's fattest ballet dancer; and Toni Malone's heartfelt vocal on 'These Are My Children.'"
Broadway Series South presents Fame the Musical Tuesday-Friday, June 1-4, at 8 p.m.; Saturday, June 5, at 2 and 8 p.m.; and Sunday, June 6, at 2 and 7 p.m. in Raleigh memorial Auditorium in the BTI Center for the Performing Arts, 1 E. South St., Raleigh, North Carolina. $17.50-$57.50. BTI Box Office: 919/831-6060. Group Rates: 919/231-4575, tix@ priorityseating.net, or http://www.priorityseating.net/. Broadway Series South: http://www.broadwayseriessouth.com/2003-2004/encore.html#fame. Fame the Musical: http://www.famenetwork.com/ [inactive 8/04]. Fame (1980 Film): http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0080716/. Fame (1982-87 TV Series): http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0083412/.