Re­mem­ber the name

A lo­cal pro­duc­tion of Fame The Mu­si­cal is ready to learn how to fly.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - Arts - By TER­ENCE TOH star2@thes­tar.com.my

AC­TOR Den­nis Lee re­mem­bers a time when he went broke for a month just to catch Fame The Mu­si­cal – not once, but twice in Kuala Lumpur.

“I re­mem­ber go­ing to watch this par­tic­u­lar in­ter­na­tional pro­duc­tion of Fame at Is­tana Bu­daya in 2002. I was so blown away by the show that I had to go watch it a sec­ond time. In fact, I blew my monthly (stu­dent) al­lowance just to catch it again ... but no re­grets!” re­calls Lee, 34, with a laugh.

“I re­mem­ber think­ing, ‘Wow, how good would it be if I could be like them, do­ing what they were do­ing on stage,’” he adds.

Some­times, dreams do come true. For Lee, he just had to wait a decade and a half.

He is play­ing the lead role in a lo­cal pro­duc­tion of Fame The Mu­si­cal, pre­sented by Mon­day Show En­ter­tain­ment and The Ac­tors Stu­dio.

Fame The Mu­si­cal, a stage mu­si­cal based on the 1980 mu­si­cal film of the same name, plays at KLPac from July 14-22.

“It’s very ex­cit­ing. I can’t be­lieve I’m ac­tu­ally do­ing it!” says Lee, speak­ing dur­ing a re­cent in­ter­view in KL with the show’s cast.

Fame The Mu­si­cal tells the sto­ries of a group of stu­dents at New York’s High School of Per­form­ing Arts. They in­clude the quiet mu­sic stu­dent Sa­muel (called “Schlomo” in the orig­i­nal show, played by Lee in this pro­duc­tion) and the con­fi­dent, fame-ob­sessed per­former Car­men (Nabilah Hamid).

Fame The Mu­si­cal, which is set dur­ing a four-year pe­riod of life at the High School of Per­form­ing Arts, sees these stu­dents deal with life, am­bi­tions, and re­la­tion­ships. Amid the youth­ful drama, they also face var­i­ous chal­lenges in their de­sire to shine on stage.

The show started as a film and was later adapted into a stage mu­si­cal in 1988 by David De Silva, with mu­sic by Steve Mar­goshes and lyrics by Jac­ques Levy. The mu­si­cal has since proved to be very pop­u­lar, with hun­dreds of pro­duc­tions, in ev­ery ma­jor lan­guage, since its first pro­duc­tion, and has even been made into a six-sea­son TV series.

KLPac’s Fame The Mu­si­cal will be di­rected by Do­minic Lu­cien Luk, with Loh Ui Li as mu­sic di­rec­tor and Michael Parks as chore­og­ra­pher.

The two-act show will fea­ture live mu­sic, per­formed by a fourpiece band, and a cast of 22 per­form­ers, most of them from lo­cal mu­si­cal the­atre school Mon­day School En­ter­tain­ment’s mu­si­cal train­ing pro­gramme (for teenagers and adults).

“Fame has a very re­lat­able story, es­pe­cially for us, be­cause our cast is from a per­form­ing arts school,” says Luk, 34.

“And what hap­pens in the story has prob­a­bly hap­pened to many of them in real life. They know what it’s like to go through a rigorous train­ing pro­gramme (ses­sion) to make a name on stage,” he adds.

“But Fame is also not just about the per­form­ing arts. On a larger scale, the is­sues that are dealt with in the story are not just to do with the stage. The show deals with fam­ily, poverty, ca­reer strug­gles, body prob­lems and so on. To me, it’s these sto­ries that re­ally make it real.”

The show series is also done in con­junc­tion with the fifth an­niver­sary of Mon­day Show En­ter­tain­ment, which is based in Subang Jaya in Se­lan­gor.

The Mon­day Show En­ter­tain­ment pro­gramme par­tic­i­pants have also gone on to be in­volved in ma­jor lo­cal mu­si­cals staged by The Ac­tors Stu­dio, Dama Or­ches­tra and Pan Pro­duc­tions, among oth­ers.

Ac­cord­ing to the Fame per­form­ers, work­ing on this mu­si­cal had been a pretty in­tense ex­pe­ri­ence.

This is Mon­day Show’s En­ter­tain­ment’s big­gest pro­duc­tion to date. Its pre­vi­ous shows, such as Av­enue Q, Mon­day Blues And Other Hues, and the Small Stage series, were all done on a smaller scale.

“I think it’s a cul­mi­na­tion of ev­ery­thing we’ve done so far. We’ve done a lot of Small Stage shows, which started off mostly as per­for­mance prac­tices. We’ve slowly built up a port­fo­lio of work and gained an au­di­ence. It’s nice to be do­ing a full scale pro­duc­tion!” says Nabilah, 27.

The main fo­cus for those on stage, says Lee, is that the view­ers can feel the en­ergy of the per­form­ers.

“It’s been chal­leng­ing. Com­pared to the last show (Av­enue Q) we did, this feels like 10 times more com­plex! The process has been dif­fi­cult, but it’s been very fruit­ful. I feel I’ve learnt a lot through­out the (re­hearsal) ses­sions,” says Lee.

There is no Fame with­out the mu­sic. The­atre-go­ers can ex­pect high-en­ergy dance num­bers and up­lift­ing, show-stop­ping bal­lads on stage at KLPac.

The mu­si­cal’s most fa­mous songs, in­clud­ing Let’s Play A Love Scene, Can’t Keep It Down, Hard Work, I Want To Make Magic, Bring On To­mor­row and of course, the iconic theme song, Fame, will be ready to sound­track this live spec­ta­cle.

Irene Cara’s orig­i­nal ver­sion of Fame, if any­thing, sounds con­tem­po­rary these days, com­plete with its 1980s hard rock gui­tars and synth-pop hooks.

“The first time the band played Fame live for us, we were like, ‘Oh my God, this is re­ally hap­pen­ing!’ This is the song that we’ve been lis­ten­ing to for years and years, and we get to do that, we get to dance that!” says Nabilah with a laugh.

“The show is a treat for the eyes and the ears. The songs are great, and the voices sound re­ally good. It’s easy to en­joy, a fun sit dow­nand-watch show. And I’m just glad to be part of it,” says Luk.

Fame The Mu­si­cal will be show­ing at Pen­tas 2, KLPac, Sen­tul Park, Jalan Stra­chan, off Jalan Sul­tan Azlan Shah in Kuala Lumpur from July 14-22. Tick­ets are RM53 and RM43 (con­ces­sion), with a spe­cial open­ing price of RM43 for all July 14-16 shows. For more info and show­times, call KLPac at 03-4047 9000, or visit www.tick­et­pro.com.my.

— Pho­tos: Mon­day Show En­ter­tain­ment

Yup, it’s all hard work! The lo­cal cast mem­bers of Fame The Mu­si­cal revving up for their up­com­ing per­for­mance at KLPac.

De­spite the en­er­getic danc­ing, there is also time for drama as Car­men (Nabilah Hamid) finds her­self drawn to the quiet Sa­muel (Den­nis Lee).

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