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Home > Past Buzz > FAME FOREVER Director/Choreographer Thomas Dewayne Barrett

When Thomas Dewayne Barrett first arrived in New York City from Atlanta several years ago to work as a dancer, he had an incredible urge to dance on top of every car he saw on 46th street.

That feeling was inspired by the hit 1980s movie and TV show "Fame," about a group of students at New York City High School for the Performing Arts who would often break out in musical numbers on the street.

So it was only fitting that Barrett direct last year's "Fame" at the Sarasota Players, which had a sold-out run. This year he's back to direct and choreograph the sequel, "Fame Forever: Reunion and Rebirth," opening 7:30 p.m. today at the theater.

The Sarasota Players and the Waterville Opera House in Maine will co-debut the show for its United States premiere. The show's creator, David DeSilva, will attend the Sarasota Players' opening night performance.

Barrett, as well as the cast, is thrilled about the whole affair.

"For me, it's really cool to be a part of something that's never been done before (in the U.S.)," Barrett said. "It's exciting."

The Sarasota Players is one of only four theaters in the world so far to present "Fame Forever."

The sequel, which made its world debut in Scotland earlier this year, fast-forwards 20, then 30 years into the future when the high school's class of 1984 meets for a reunion. The musical reveals what happened to everyone over the years since graduation.

Garie Jean Williams reprises her role as Serena Katz, a character who isn't as shy as she was in "Fame," when she fell in love with classmate Nick Piazza. All grown up, she's an English teacher who is hoping reunite with her crush.

"My character is particularly excited to see him," she said.

As for Williams, she's glad to be reacquainted with some of last year's "Fame" cast.

"It's great to reconnect with cast members 'cause you have a chemistry and a history together," she said.

There are a few new faces in the musical, too. They include Rosie Korfant, who has a role as dance teacher Greta Bell, and Jahrel Thompson, who portrays hip-hop dancer Tyrone Jackson. Tyrone, who graduated with the class of 1984, grows up to own a dance studio though he's not as successful as he would like, Thompson said.

The large cast also includes Bradenton resident Dennis Reid, the pastor of Whitfield Presbyterian Church in Sarasota. Reid, a former disc jockey, plays a hilarious DJ named Joe Vegas.

"I think I was typecast," he said.

Joining him is wife, Kim, who has a role in the ensemble, and his 9-year-old son, Brandon, who plays his grandson.

When Brandon was cast as a last-minute replacement for a small role in the theater's season closer of "Nine" earlier this year, the family got bit by the acting bug, Reid said.

They all decided to make acting a family affair when auditioning for "Fame Forever."

"The historicity of it (U.S. debut) and the opportunity to do it with my family was too good to pass up," said Reid. Coinciding with rehearsals is the theater's taping of a "Fame Forever" documentary that will feature auditions, casting, rehearsals and interviews with the production team, including DeSilva. The documentary is planned to debut at the theater in January 2008. It may also air on television, said Michelle Pingel, director of operations for the Sarasota Players.

To follow all the fanfare of "Fame Forever," Lakeshore Entertainment is planning to release a film remake of "Fame" next summer.

Barrett can't seem to get enough of all things "Fame," a show that has a way of reaching into the very soul of an artist.

"It's just the passion behind the performing," he said of why he cherishes the production. "The dance, the music and acting - that passion that you have as a performer."

What: "Fame Forever - Reunion and Rebirth"

When: Opens 7:30 p.m. today; 8 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday through

Oct. 7

Where: Sarasota Players, 838 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota

Tickets: $23 adults, $12 students

Information: 365-2494


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