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An energetic cast reveals the rigors of fame
Four years of high school in a little over two hours: That’s the tall order the musical “Fame” is asked to tackle, and the students in the current Vashon High School production are up to it.
There’s so much great singing, dancing and music in this touching saga of the 1984 class at New York’s High School for the Performing Arts that the years pass swiftly, as they seem to as well in real life.
It’s easy to be carried away by the combined artistry of David Katz and Callison Ott, who slowly come to realize they, as Nick Piazza and Serena Katz (no relation), like each other quite a bit.
Katz’s stable stage presence anchors Nick’s devotion to serious theater (Brecht, Pinter, Shakespeare), and Ott’s powerful chops in such songs as “Let’s Play a Love Scene” embody the emotion that Nick finally arrives at.
Brendan Bric, who says he wants to pursue a career in music, could easily find a sideline in standup, what with his demonstrated hilarious comic turn as José Vegas, an especially over-heated character in the play.
Jack Lorence, who claims he hasn’t acted since elementary school, comes on as a natural playing Tyrone Jackson, the rap and hip-hop guy from the wrong side of the tracks.
Lorence moves with grace and confidence (especially in “Dancin’ On The Sidewalk”) and makes a great companion to the wonderful ballet dancer Nelle Horsley, who plays Iris Kelly, secretly a chauffeur’s daughter who hides behind her seemingly upper-class appearance.
Kelly Ferguson’s got the female bookend funny part to Bric’s (they are both addicts), playing overweight Mabel Washington, who’s always on the Seafood Diet: “I see food and I eat it,” she says, and sings “O Lord, Give Me A Sign,” also known as “Mabel’s Prayer,” a humorous plea for freedom from her appetite.
There are three musician characters, with Emma Lodes as rock drummer Grace “Lambchops” Lamb, and Tynan Lazarus as trumpeter Goodman “Goody” King.
Both do very well, but the third, Riley Hills, has the larger role as violinist Schlomo Metzenbaum, the son of perfectionist professional musicians who, despite his unassuming appearance, kicks out a fine singing voice, particularly when he ramps up the show’s power ballad “Bring On Tomorrow.”
But fame is, for more than any of the students, the dream of Carmen Diaz (no relation, apparently, to the movie star), played with powerful panache by Meme Garcia-Cosgrove as she covers the arc from supreme confidence in herself to a sad end with convincing acting and a strong voice.
All the student characters are shepherded by four teachers, each well cast. Anna Smith, who has a well-trained and emotive pop voice, conveys the loving strictness of the English teacher Miss Esther Sherman, notably in the song “These Are My Children.”
Lea Zaglin plays the more liberal dance teacher, Calen Winn the acting teacher, and Nolan Shinn the music instructor, each with enough aplomb to actually seem older than the “students” they are educating.
The show begins with another prayer, “I Pray I Make P.A.,” followed by the anthem “Hard Work,” which signals to all that talent isn’t enough. Indeed, the students are told that 90 percent of them won’t “make it” as professionals.
But the dream — Carmen’s dream of fame — haunts them all, and the show ends with the uplifting reprise of “Bring on Tomorrow.”
There are, of course, many others responsible for the production, starting with directors Susan Hanson and Stephen Floyd, but they are too numerous to name.
They are there in the program, on the stage, in the orchestra and behind the scenes of this production, a very fine one indeed.
— Eric Horsting reviews dance, theater and music for The Beachcomber.
Tickets and times
”Fame” will run at Vashon High School through March 29. Friday and Saturday shows start at 7:30 p.m and Sunday matinees start at 2 p.m. Ticket cost $8 to $12, depending on performance datees, and can be purchased at Books by the Way, the VHS office or at the door.
The show’s producers warn that because of some language and intense situations, the show may not be suitable for children younger than 13.