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‘Fame’ lets young dancers shine

May 4, 2011
By Tara Bradbury


A cast of 32 members from the Theatre of St. John’s rehearses a scene from the hit musical, “Fame,” which they will perform at the Holy Heart Theatre starting tonight until Saturday night. — Photo by Karla Kenny/Special to The Telegram

A group of young local actors is bringing “Fame: The Musical” to Holy Heart Theatre in St. John’s this week, and is hoping audience members will get into the spirit by bringing their biggest hair and shoulder pads.

“Fame” is the debut production for the Theatre St. John’s Young Company, and will run at Holy Heart Theatre from tonight until Saturday at 8 p.m.

Director Keith Pike said part of Theatre St. John’s’ mandate is to mentor local young actors and dancers, and the musical is the perfect one to start with.

It’s so much like the TV show, and it’s so 80s. These kids have got neon, they’ve got legwarmers. You come to the show and it’s a blast from the past,” Pike said.

First a musical film in 1980 and then a long-running television series, “Fame: The Musical” premiered in 1988 as “Fame on 42nd Street.” The production is set during the last years of New York’s High School for the Performing Arts on 46th Street.

Everyone in the show is the age of their character, Pike said. There are no 15-year-olds playing 30-year-olds, or the other way around.

“They can relate to what’s going on,” he explained. “A lot of the leads are graduating high school and going on to (performing arts colleges), so I wanted to take advantage of that and use the talent and give the kids an opportunity now. I was given the chance to perform when I was their age and it’s cliché, but they are the future of the arts in Canada.”

Not everyone in the show is new to the stage. “Fame” also features four professional actors playing the roles of teachers in the production: Sarah Small, Tolson Barrington, Tim Matson and Kelly-Ann Evans, who is also serving as vocal director for the show.

The professionals have been mentoring and giving the younger actors workshops and some one-on-one attention.

“We’re offering the workshops to give them knowledge, and then they can bring that to the rehearsal room,” Pike explained.

“It hasn’t been a challenge. It’s been exciting for me and for Kelly-Ann, as the vocal director, to be working in a different way for the show.

“My hope is that this young company will grow into something special and when they do a show we can offer them lots of workshops like that.”

Phillip McDermott, 15, plays Jack Zakowski, a headstrong Russian ballet dancer.

McDermott has been doing ballet and other forms of dance since he was five years old, and has starred in productions including Theatre St. John’s production of “West Side Story” last fall.

“Jack is very into the arts. He’s a ballet dancer with a flare of hip hop in him and he actually raps in the show,” Phillip explained of his role.

“He does have a bit of an attitude, which I try my best to perform. As a dancer you have to have a certain confidence about yourself, but it made me think beyond what I’m used to.”

Phillip, who’s attending the National Ballet School this summer and applying to move to a performing arts high school in England in the fall, said he can relate to the characters in “Fame.”

“I know what it feels like for some people who want to make it,” he said. “That’s my life — you have to keep up with school work but you also have to keep up with performing arts.

“I think Keith’s idea to form a young company is phenomenal. To think he’s thinking not just for adults but for younger people who want to perform is fabulous.”

For the Friday night show, the theatre company is asking audience members to come dressed in their best 1980s costumes, and will award prizes for the best outfits.

Tickets for “Fame: The Musical” are $22.50 and are available at the Holy Heart Theatre box office, by calling 579-4424, or online at


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