the musical by jacobsen entertainment and img
4 jul 2002
>>>>>FIFTEEN MINUTES TOO LONG
Nostalgia is in the air these days.
Take a stroll
down Broadway and the biggest neon lights no longer belong to new productions
but rather revivals. Revivals such as Rogers and Hammerstein's classic
musical 'Oklahoma!', 'Thoroughly Modern Millie' (inspired by the 1967
Julie Andrews hit) and the new musical 'Sweet Smell of Success' based
on the 1957 Tony Curtis and Burt Lancaster film have been grabbing headlines
as well as audience attention. New offbeat musical 'Urinetown' might have
been the critic's darling but it was 'Thoroughly Modern Millie' that grabbed
the 2002 Tony for Best Musical.
the immortal line "Fame! I'm gonna live forever" filled the
theatre during the climatic chorus, the thought of living forever didn't
actually seem all that hot after all.'
High School of Performing Arts in New York City was one of the first public
schools along with the High School of Music and Art for professional training
in the Arts, and such alternative schools were the mecca for students
with big dreams of bright lights. FAME the movie, which chronicled student
life there, opened in 1980 and the school was immediately immortalized
as the "Fame" school spurring similar "Fame" schools
to be built in Miami, Washington and even Paris. And like all those dance
teen dramas that inundated the 1980s, FAME (the movie and musical) charts
the lives of the little people - their struggles, their disappointments,
and finally their against-the-odds achievements.
Sadly, FAME comes across as terribly outdated. You just have to listen to Simon Glesson as Nick Piazza sing with gravitas about "the craft" and how he wants to "make people really care, to make them give a damn" to have the stale air of their 1980s sweat shirts hit you head-on. Even Geri Halliwell knew that campy was the way to go with her run-out-into-the-rain-and-dance sequences but FAME plays it so straight (even Nick Piazza is straight in the musical when he was gay in the movie), or plain lazy in light of how much society has changed, that it's almost laughable. Except that after the 2004th wide-eyed pledge of keeping it real for "the craft," you get the impression the creator David De Silva and lyric writer Jacques Levy still believe in these lines. Furthermore, issues such as the marginalization of Hispanic talents might have been fresh news at that time but with the rise of Latino megastars Jennifer Lopez, Ricky Martin and the others, things are simply not the same; lead Deone Zanotto as Carmen Diaz laments that she might have to change her name to Carmen Jones to make it big, but now, being an authentic Latina would be her fast ticket to the top. Of course these issues persist (have you noticed how much whiter Destiny's Child becomes with each album?) but really the context and circumstances have changed so much that without a major update or reinvention, FAME simply doesn't cut it. Just look at the incessant eyeball rolling from the audience on the opening night.
Reviews for FAME have mainly concentrated on the high-octane performance and the energetic dance sequences and in that area, FAME did not disappoint. The dance ensemble and singing leads claimed the stage as theirs. While the songs - emotionally flat and uninspiring - needed a major revamp, vivid memories of the dancers' ecstatic but exhausted faces drenched in sweat remain firmly in my mind. Leads Zanotto (Carmen) and Peter Harrington-Olsen (Tyrone Jackson) did commendable jobs as, respectively, the impatient wannabe diva and the talented but dyslexic dancer with a misguided attitude, with their robust voices and attitudinised New York street cred. Luke Hunter as token geek Schlomo Metzenbaum and Allison Bryne as tomboy Grace Lamb also impressed with their natural portrayals and charming delivery. But it was Maria Mercedes as authoritarian Miss Sherman (she even carries a stick for emphasis) who stole the limelight with her powerhouse voice and mean swagger - a pity that poor acoustic support rendered the sparring scene between Lena Cruz (Miss Bell) and her almost inaudible.
entertainment stripped of lofty artistic expectations, FAME wasn't that
much of a riot. The core love stories between Nick (Simon Gleeson) and
Serena (Laura Fitzpatrick) and Tyrone and Iris (Simone De La Rue) made
little impact beyond prodding the plot along; Glesson and Fitzpatrick
sang and sang and sang
but their love remained stubbornly of the
brother and sister kind. While the struggles of the underdog will always
be fodder for drama (don't even bother counting the number of loser-made-good
storylines in plays, films etc), surely some effort could have been put
into telling a rehashed story a different way, preferably with catchier
songs, smarter lines and a jazzier set, thank you very much.