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Home > Current Buzz > Fame the Musical Comes to Melbourne

April, 2010

The cast of Fame the Musical, first day of rehearsals at the Ministry of Dance. In front is Rowena Vilar, who plays Carmen, middle is Amy Campbell (ensemble) and behind is Camilla Jakimowicz the ensemble dance captain. Picture: Bruce Magilton Source: HWT Image Library

The Fame ensemble bounds about the rehearsal floor in an explosive burst of energy, a mass of long hair flicking and limbs flying.

Two of the musical's lead actors join the ensemble to sing the opening number Hard Work, but both are in impossibly high heels that just won't cut it on the dance floor with the Fame students' spinning sneakers.

"We just groove," says Darlene Love, the show's US import who brings authority to the stage in the form of strict English teacher Miss Sherman.

Her "polar opposite" in New York City's High School of Performing Arts is ballet teacher Ms Bell, played by Rebecca Jackson Mendoza.

"Miss Bell lives vicariously through the students; she didn't get her dream and she is married to the job," says Mendoza, whose background in ballet, jazz singing and big stage musicals led her to Fame.

The cast has a difficult schedule, with just under four weeks to rehearse at the North Melbourne studios of Ministry of Dance. Then comes only two days of technical fine-tuning in the Regent Theatre before the April 16 opening.

Many of the cast are raw recruits to the professional stage, although the principals are experienced performers.

There is a wealth of Fame experience, too, in the form of the show's director and choreographer Kelley Abbey.

Abbey first choreographed and toured with the show in Australia, Asia and South Africa 10 years ago, and then played a lead character, Carmen Diaz.

Rowena Vilar takes on the super-confident, fame-obsessed Carmen in 2010 for the show that opens in Melbourne before touring to Brisbane and Sydney.

Love says the young and enthusiastic ensemble very much resembles the Fame storyline.

"You can start from nowhere and go wherever your dreams take you if you take that point from the song Hard Work," says Love, whose career began singing in church in California.

Love went on to sing in girl groups and worked with producer Phil Spector on such hits as He's a Rebel and Da Doo Ron Ron.

She also sang back-up for artists including Sam Cooke, Elvis Presley, Dionne Warwick, Cher and Aretha Franklin. At age 41, she moved to New York City to start her solo career.

"I met Bruce Springsteen and Steve Van Zandt at a show... Steve got me my first job singing at the Peppermint Lounge in NYC," she recalls.

"Like everyone else in my profession, singing comes naturally. But the kids who get into a school like Fame realise it's not just fun and games; they know how much work they have to do to get their dreams."

Fame, The Musical, Regent Theatre, Collins St from April 16. Tickets: $79.90-$109.90; VIP and Girls' Night Out packages available. Bookings: 1300 795 012 or

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