At the Oct. 17 dress rehearsal for Buchser Middle School’s “Fame Jr.,” the Broadway Cast lit up the stage as they portrayed the ambitious students through their four years at New York City’s High School of Performing Arts. The show channeled ‘80s fashion, with neon clothing, side ponytails, chain necklaces, vests, and sweaters worn over the shoulders. Catchy songs, performed smoothly with zeal, filled the musical. This Santa Clara Musical Theater production ran at Santa Clara High School’s Performing Arts Center from Oct. 18-20.
“The show is about resilience, moving forward and sticking to your plans,” said Maureen Driggs, the show’s Music Director.
Indeed, the characters encountered challenges they worked to overcome. For example, Mabel (Corinne Dunham) tried to maintain a healthy diet to manage her weight. Joe “Jose” (Parker Bradford) used humor to mask his possible hurt from female rejection.
Carmen, played by Lana Satana, 13, was impatient in her quest to become an instant celebrity. Satana and other cast members sang the iconic “There She Goes!/ Fame.”
“Carmen enjoys the idea of being famous, being on Broadway, being in the movies and having her name in lights,” Satana said. “She usually lets her anger decide her choices. She’s extremely stubborn. She believes she deserves all the fame she wants when she still has a lot to work for. Carmen wants to go to Los Angeles because she met a ‘professional agent’ scouting for talent. She believes his story about how she could become a star by going to Los Angeles. Schlomo (Gyan Nawbatt) warns that this is a scam and she wouldn’t listen.
“In the original ‘Fame’ musical, Carmen dies from a drug overdose,” Satana continued. “In ‘Fame Jr.,’ Carmen is alive and well at the end. She accepts she can wait a bit before trying to become famous. Because of her experience in L.A. getting scammed, she realizes she has to take it slow.”
The “plays it cool” Tyrone, played by Isaac Ishimatsu, 11, struggled academically.
“Tyrone has a reading disorder called dyslexia but he wants to hide it,” Ishimatsu said. “He doesn’t want to show others he has a weakness. Then he works with Ms. Sherman everyday one on one with his reading. Sometimes Tyrone becomes this angry broken kid. People who are feeling this way should open up and get help. You shouldn’t keep things bottled up.”
Ishimatsu has practiced ballet since he was three-years-old. His background in ballet came in handy for this show.
“In the dance class scene, our ‘class’ does ballet moves,” Ishimatsu said of one of the scenes in “Fame Jr.” “For example, we do a couple of demi plies, which is slightly bending your legs, and one ronde de jambe, which is pointing your foot in front of you and moving it around your other leg on the floor.”