Written by 11:58 pm La Habra, Musical, Mysterium, Review, Uncategorized

Fame: The Musical @ Mysterium Theater – Review

Written by Daniella Litvak 

Fame is the hit movie from the 1980s, featuring teenagers dancing in the streets of New York City to the proclamation of “Fame! I’m gonna live forever/I’m gonna learn how to fly (high!).”–these lyrics have since become an indelible part of pop culture. The film won two Academy Awards for Best Original Song and Best Original Score. It spawned two television series – a reality show competition –and even a film remake in 2009. Most importantly, Fame: The Musical made its stage debut in 1988 and has been performed worldwide at all levels ever since.


photo courtesy: Robert Ladd

The film and the musical share the same premise. Both portrayals feature the hardships and heartaches that a group of aspiring student performers faces while attending New York City’s High School of the Performing Arts during the 1980s. The story follows them from auditions to graduation. However, the musical is not a direct adaptation of the movie. (Don’t worry. You’ll hear the title song. But the other song from the film nominated for an Academy Award, “Out Here On My Own,” is not included in the theatrical production). The musical has chosen to build its story around a different group of students rather than the movie’s characters. However, the musical’s characters and plot lines do share a resemblance to the ones contained in the film.

There are a lot of characters in this show, with each individual passionately pursuing their desires and dreams. However, the main storylines are as follows: Serena Katz (Johnisa Breault) is in love with fellow acting student Nick Piazza (Gregory Yuan), but all Nick cares about is his craft. Jack Zakowski’s (Thomas Challain) dancing career is threatened because he cannot pass his English class. While triple threat Carmen Diaz (Phoebe Melanson) is determined to become famous as soon as possible –no matter what it takes.  


photo courtesy: Robert Ladd

 The numerous characters and plot lines create a few issues. First of all, they overstretch the story of the overall show. Because the musical has to be selective about what moments it depicts, it feels like the audience misses out on key moments in each person’s journey and therefore makes certain character decisions appear abrupt. There are characters such as Iris Kelley (Hannah Jarvis) and Schlomo Metzenbaum (Derek Isaza) who have interesting backstories and could potentially carry their storylines, but ultimately their purpose is to forward Jack and Carmen’s stories instead. 

Luckily the story issues do not bring down the cast. Their enthusiasm is evident and comes through while performing. The dancing –especially the ballet sequences –is impressive. 

“Teacher’s Argument,” a duet between the dance teacher, Miss Bell (Christine DePalmo), and the English teacher, Miss Sherman (Judy Mina-Ballard), is one of the standout songs. I love this rendition for many reasons. First of all, the actresses’ performances are lovely. Secondly, the song is an entertaining take on whether artists need traditional academic subjects as much as they need training in the arts. Third, the lighting design during the song is terrific.

 Fame: The Musical is a lot like its characters: energetic, and talented but a bit rough. Still, “Remember. Remember. Remember…” it’s playing at the Mysterium Theater.  

Sidenote: “Mabel’s Prayer.” performed by Thaies Quezada, is fantastic. 

March 17 – April 10th, 2016



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