Dream For The Stars: FAME

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Event: Fame: The Musical
Venue:  Times-Union Center for the Performing Arts
Date/Time: Dec 3 at 8pm
Tickets: $32.50-64.505
Contact: www.fscjartistseries.org

That theme song, the dancing, those legwarmers—In the 80s, Fame shone the spotlight on the first collection of teenage hopefuls as they sweat, stomped, and sang their way to the top. First on the silver screen, followed by a successful television series, Fame inspired a generation to reach for the stars.

Reconfigured from the skeletons of the film and television series, Fame: The Musical infuses the production with a modern formula including a fresh score, new storyline, and reimagined cast with all the ethos of the original characters still intact. Fame: The Musical hits the stage for one performance only December 3rd at the Times-Union Center for the Arts (www.fscjartistseries.org).

david-dasilvaThe creator of Fame, David DaSilva,  spoke with EU about his role as “Father Fame” and the importance of inspiring a new generation of students to follow their dreams. DaSilva conceived, developed and produced the film Fame, receiving four Academy Award nominations and winning for Best Song. He served as consulting producer on the television series, which ran for six years and was broadcast in 68 countries. “The music transcends language,” he says. “You don’t understand what they are saying. But are they laughing where they are supposed to and serious at the right moments? That’s when you know it’s working.”

david-dasilvaDaSilva created Fame: The Musical as an extension of the brand. He retained the stage rights to the film, which he envisioned as an opportunity to create a unique musical that would speak to multiple generations in any language. “That is where my heart is,” he says. ‘”When I conceived and produced the motion picture Fame, I always imagined that it would be the ultimate reality-based stage musical. There’s a logical reason for the kids to be performing, because it’s part of their daily lives. They don’t just burst into song out of the blue.”

Fame was originally developed as a screenplay called Hot Lunch about kids working on scenes, playing music, and dancing in a high school cafeteria. DaSilva sold the rights to MGM, but in the middle of shooting the movie, they were threatened with a lawsuit because an adult film shared the same name. Some of the alternate titles considered were Neon Dreams, Break a Leg, Spotlight, Pizzazz, Razzle Dazzle, Shooting Stars, and Stagestruck. “We got lucky. Fortunately Michael Gore, who was musical supervisor on the movie, had written this song called ‘Fame’. Reluctantly, we said, ‘We’re going to call it Fame, and the song went on to win an Academy Award,” says DaSilva. “If we hadn’t changed the name, I’d be Father Hot Lunch.”

FAME, Artist Series, Jacksonville, FL

Although the production still casts an 80s shadow with choreographed dances, upbeat pop songs, power ballads, and ambitious, if not over reaching, story arcs involving hopeful dreamers from the wrong side of the tracks, Fame: The Musical follows a group of students at New York School of the Performing Arts as they come to terms with life and relationships. The musical reimagines the beloved 80s characters like Coco and Leroy into the more modern Selena and Tyrone. The story is new, but the spirit remains faithful to the original.

There are many opportunities for sliding in important messages about staying in school, not doing drugs and persevering regardless of social obstacles as they strive for excellence. As in the originals, the cast is ethnically diverse and the score reflects that mix with classical to rap music and dance going from ballet to hip-hop. “My first goal was to create a show that would be relevant and timeless as a musical. Fame: the Musical is a blueprint for the ultimate ensemble production. It has a chorus of anywhere from 8 to 80, and it allows for flexibility in staging, based on the talent available. It makes stars; it doesn’t need stars to make it happen,” he says.

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“My second goal was to create the ideal musical for high schools around the world, one that would give acting students, musicians, and dancers a chance to have their 15 minutes of fame before they even graduate. Most shows today are really period pieces. No other musical deals with contemporary dance and music in a way that students can relate to directly. The show also allows a school’s music department into the production, because it uses musicians on the stage, as well as in the orchestra pit.”

DaSilva has enjoyed the spoils of the Fame brand helping to propel the musical around the world. Fame: The Musical first hit the regional theater stage at the Coconut Grove in Miami in 1988. The following year, it was performed at the Walnut Street Theatre in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where it broke box office records. The big breakthrough came in January 1993 when the show had its European premiere in Stockholm.

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When De Silva first saw the show in the spring of 1993, he went back and saw it four more times and cried at every performance. Even though he didn’t understand a word of it, he didn’t have to. The show that came from his heart spoke to his heart through the universal language of music and dance. “My love of theatre was the key when we sold the film rights. I said, ‘I’m holding on to the stage rights.’ That’s really my dream; whatever happens here needs to happen in the theatre. Had I not done that, they would’ve blown it on Broadway, and that would’ve been the end of it,” he says.

“I’d much rather go to many different see different choreographers and directors doing their version rather than have one production where everything is riding on it. If it doesn’t work, then that was a failure.  As a producer, I was always protecting the material which is why it lives forever.” See it for yourself December 3rd. For more info, check out www.fscjartistseries.org.

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About Liza Mitchell

october, 2021

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