Directed by Peter Zogby and Chloe Sciore with musical direction provided by Spencer Birch and technical direction by Benjamin Rogers. The entirely student produced musical Fame had its ups and its downs. Without getting picky about the script, there were numerous stand out performances among the cast, ones that made me rethink the place Natick has in the drama community. Upon walking into the Natick High School lobby I was immediately impressed by the crowd, the student play had amassed. The marketing team surely deserves a pat on the back. Initially I thought it would have been a sure thing for me to pick out a kingpin seat and comfortably view opening night. That’s why I was left regretting my decision to not show up earlier for tickets, when I sat down in one of the farthest rows back. Although my considerable distance from the stage I felt like I was right on the lip, I could even hear the actors breathing. Yes… It’s true, there were technical difficulties involving the audio of some of the principal characters. The muffled breathing that was heard consistently throughout the first act was distracting and robbed the audience of some of the punchlines, which led the pit band to drown out the vocals.
Luckily, the audience caught a glimpse of the talent that was so close to persevering throughout the whole play very early on. I immediately smirked at Brendan O’Laughlin’s (Loughlin’s) character who came off as narcissistic and full of air. Gabi Dixon played Carmen’s sarcastic and dominating personality with realism from the start, and it would be a crime to ignore Simon Safran’s charisma. Following the first few scenes the audience began to warm up to the characters and it felt that the rest of the performers did too. Once the problematic mics were accepted as is, and the mania of opening night calmed down, its production began to find its tempo. Fame’s ascent to a strong performance began with the song by the same name, well, “There She Goes! /Fame” technically. But regardless of the semantics, I’m remised to announce that the play only continued this streak until the fourth song in the second act, after that it began to lose momentum. The energy built up in “There She Goes! /Fame” and the virtually all the subsequent songs until that second act song was fantastic. Here was where Tony Jeanlys’s Tyrone, really began to steal the show. Not only was his story compelling, but the ease he brought to the stage immersed the audience and allowed for many moments where the older women around me loudly cackled. Jeanlys’s comfort with physical contact/closeness and taboo (sexual) subjects in this show provided a startlingly realistic teenage character. Kate Riley’s Mabel also began to open up into a deeper character here as she was given stage time for something other than comedic relief, even having her own song “Mabel’s Prayer” which was probably my personal favorite.
On the topic of good character performances in Fame the entire ensemble lends a hand to the immersion of the production. Not to pick favorites, but someone who I felt consistently showed effort in his scenes was the same kid who successfully pulled off a split in front of a full house of people; Clay Napurano. Unfortunately, the atmospheric tone set by the ensemble can only go so far. Many scenes were left feeling awkward with nothing to look at because of the lack of choreography. While the dance routine that was repeated three times throughout the show was pretty spot on, you would have to expect it considering the amount it must have been practiced. I also noted that in the slower parts of the musical I was more drawn to Spencer Birch’s explosive and dramatic music direction than what was happening onstage, and would often find myself getting lost in the instrumentals rather than the onstage performances.
I truly applaud the people that made this entire production possible, not only the people who ‘gave birth’ to the idea of putting on Fame. But also the faculty that allowed a play this risqué to be put on within their hollow grounds. I am honestly, a little surprised, and I’m not quite sure they knew what they were getting into, but I guess it’s too late now. Overall, The student production of Fame serves as a testament to the abilities of students in this school. Not only in singing and acting, but also in theater production. Directors Chloe Sciore and Peter Zogby have definitely achieved a difficult task in staging their own performance for an audience as big as the one it got. I would recommend to as many people as possible to go see “Fame”. As the pros outweigh the cons, and most of the cons that do exist are fixable. However, the show closes the day after it debuts so promotion on my part would be a difficult task. Judging by the first night, if I encourage any more people to go see Saturday’s showing chances are they’ll end up being turned away.