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A Fun 'Fame'

Stage version of film makes for pleasant entertainment.

March 01, 2001|TODD EVERETT | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

"Fame"--a successful film, with characters mostly of high school age, that spun off two television series--seems a natural for the stage. And indeed it is, as witnessed at the Simi Valley Cultural Arts Center.

Set at New York City's High School for the Performing Arts, "Fame--the Musical" also follows a group of students from matriculation through their final year. It's the school's final year, as well: The building will be torn down and the classes moved to a larger, more modern facility.

There's laughter, heartache and tragedy, and the show is easy on the plot and long on the musical numbers. Think of it as "Grease" with more heart and less parody.

In addition to a few songs from the original film, written in various combinations by Michael Gore, Dean Pitchford and Lesley Gore, the score has been expanded with several numbers by Jacques Levy and Steve Margoshes.

They're all OK, but chances are that--as was the case with the film--the only one you're likely to remember is Pitchford and Michael Gore's title number, a top-five hit for the film's star Irene Cara. "Out Here on My Own," another Cara hit, isn't here, alas, nor is "Red Light," a lesser hit for Linda Clifford. (The show was "conceived and developed" by David De Silva, whatever that means--presumably taking Christopher Gore's film script, changing the characters' names and some of the situations, eliminating two of the big songs from the Academy Award-winning score and bringing in a couple of outsiders to write several new numbers.)

Still, it moves, thanks to choreographer Dani Brown and a cast that includes at least three professional dance instructors. The songs sound good, particularly when sung by Catrina Quintanilla in the Irene Cara role, and the dynamic Monkela Davis. And it's a treat to hear a live band, under the direction of Gary Poirot, with vocal direction by Zachary Spencer.

The cast includes Jeff Kelly as Tyrone Washington, a dancer with an attitude; Stephen Edwards as a musician torn between classical and rock; Robert Dantona, Matt Mullins, Kelly Wilkinson, Morgan Danlon and Tyler Wilkinson as fellow students; and Francia Hinrichs, Deidre Fisher, James Leslie and Ron Rosen as the faculty.

Nobody dances on cars here, as they did in the film, and nobody goes to see "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." But "Fame--the Musical" has its own share of lightweight charms and provides an enjoyable overall experience.

DETAILS

"Fame--the Musical" continues at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2:30 p.m. Sundays through March 29 at the Simi Valley Cultural Arts Center, 3050 Los Angeles Ave. Tickets are $15 general, $12 seniors and students, and $10 children 12 and under. For reservations or further information, call 581-9940.

*

Teatro de las Americas returns this weekend to the Petit Playhouse in Oxnard for a series of performances of Mexican playwright Norma Roma-Calvo's "Delgadina and her Godmother."

The play, said director Christina Aerenlund, is based on a corrido, a type of ballad from Northern Mexico, and dates to the 1920s. "Portions are in verse," Aerenlund said, "which is as close as [the playwright] could make it to the corrido itself."

"I was not into that kind of Mexican music, so I was surprised at how well-known 'Delgadina' is," Aerenlund said. "Some of the other people in the Teatro even had a copy."

The play about a royal family in a storybook setting, in Spanish with projected English supertitles, is suitable for the family, she said.

DETAILS

"Delgadina and her Godmother" opens Saturday and continues through March 25 at the Petit Playhouse, 730 South B St. in Oxnard's Heritage Square. Shows are at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 5 p.m. Sundays (except this Sunday). Tickets are $10; $7, students. For reservations or further information, call 984-3222, Ext. 1.

*

Todd Everett can be reached at teverett@concentric.net.

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