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Senior High musical "Fame" tells high school story

October 22, 2012

by Sarah Schulz

“Fame — The Musical” touches on the things that make-up high school — academics, the arts, friendship, first love, humor, social status, loss, self-esteem and future plans.

All of those things, and much more, will be brought to life this week at Grand Island Senior High.

“Fame — The Musical" is based on the 1980 movie “Fame” and the television series that followed. The musical follows several students who attend the High School of Performing Arts in New York City. Among them are Joe, a wisecracking comedian; Schlomo, a musical good boy; Ty, a talented dancer who struggles academically; Serena, a ambitious actress; and Carmen, a fame-obsessed drug addict.

Four members of the GISH cast — Tyler Vogt, Cruz Salazar, Emily Weakland and Joshua Mathews — said the musical differs from the movie in that it involves different characters, story lines and songs.

“It’s a realistic interaction,” said Mathews, who plays Schlomo Metzenbaum.

Vogt, who plays Ty Jackson, agrees.

“It’s like real high school only with more singing,” he said.

All four students are seniors and two of them, Vogt and Mathews, plan to pursue music in some form in college.

“This is the last time we will perform with our peers,” Vogt said, looking around the theater.

Jeff Vyhlidal, who is directing the show with Greg Ulmer, John Haberman and Taylor Jones, said there is a lot of singing and dancing in the show. Although the script was written in the 1980s, GISH’s production is modern and spans four years of high school.

The audience will get to see the core characters grow and will be exposed to relevant themes such as eating disorders, drug abuse and the desire to succeed in the world.

“It was written in the 1980s, but not much has changed,” he said. “So much of this show is exactly like high school.”

When choosing a musical for this year, Vyhlidal said they looked for something relatable for the students. Last year’s production of “The Music Man” was a classic, but not many teenagers can relate to the story of a con man in the early 1900s, he said.

Weakland, who plays Ms. Greta Bell, said it was easy for her to relate to the themes in “Fame.”

This is her first performance in a musical. She enjoys music and thought the show sounded like fun. She described the central plot of the show as “our relationships with each other.”

Vogt said he’d heard of the movie and the TV series but hadn’t seen either of them before trying out for the musical. He summed up the plot in one sentence.

“It’s about the students’ journey through the High School of Performing Arts and four years of their struggles,” he said.

He added that his favorite scene involves him getting slapped by another student who plays a teacher.

“She really slaps me,” he said. “It’s hard not to anticipate it. I’ve had to try and relax.”

Weakland said it’s not all serious.

“I love him,” she said, pointing at Salazar and explaining that he’s the comic relief.

“There’s a lot of humor in this,” he said. “And a boost of self-esteem.”

He said a scene that takes place in an acting class stands out as his favorite in the show but he didn’t want to elaborate and give it away.

Both Salazar and Weakland said they also like the opening scene. It starts with a slow ballad but picks up quickly.

“There’s a lot going on,” Salazar said.

Mathews said the show includes more dancing than other shows the school has done.

“Crazy dancing,” he said with a laugh.

Tim Smith, owner of Smitty’s Performing Arts Center, did the choreography for the musical.

Vyhlidal praised the students for putting in long hours and working hard to learn all of the songs and the dance steps.

“These kids have put in so much work plus their homework and many of them have jobs,” he said. “There are some awesome kids here. Some phenomenal kids who work hard. They give a lot of their time and I’m blessed to get to work with them.”

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