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'Fame Forever'
Waterville Opera House hosts musical's U.S. premiere

Staff Photo by Jeff Pouland
FAME FOREVER: Nikki Hunt as "Carmen Diaz" and Brad Thomas as "Michael Peters" will star in the U.S. premiere of "Fame Forever" at the Waterville Opera House on Friday, September 21 at 7:30 p.m.

WATERVILLE -- Everyone dreams of tasting fame, of seeing their face and their name on the cover of a magazine. It's the stuff dreams are made of, and everyone dreams. The younger the dreamer, the more intense the dream.

Young Chelsea Tyler, a junior at Messalonskee High School in Oakland, is waiting in the wings of the Waterville Opera House. It's late, and she and 50 or more, garbed in sweats, T-shirts and shorts, have had a hard night of blood, sweat and tears.

Tyler is a performer who just got a sniff of the sweet smell of success -- it's a heady scent, a perfume, a drug. To some it's toxic, to Tyler and her friends, it's a tonic, a rush.

Fame is the name of the game, and the name of the big show, "Fame Forever -- The Reunion and Rebirth," which has its U.S. premiere Sept. 21 at the Waterville Opera House.

Usually, a young artist has to travel to Portland or Boston to try out for a big show -- this time it's Waterville, Maine, where one of the all time musicals has dropped out of the sky.

Thanks to David De Silva, a devoted, maybe even obsessed, man of the theater, the new show is landing at our door with all the characters from the original 1980 film "Fame."

"Fame" was nominated for four Academy Awards and won for best song. A series based on the film went on to run six years on television. Now, De Silva, with the help of composer Steve Margoshes and lyricist Jacques Levy, has come up with a sequel, "Fame Forever -- The Reunion and Rebirth," the story of those who first inhaled the perfume and those who are hooked on it today.

De Silva, a one-time high school history teacher from New York, conceived the idea for "Fame," which follows the sweat and tears of star-struck students at the New York High School for Performing Arts.

So how did De Silva come to bring the sequel to Waterville and central Maine?

"It's a great story," said Debra Susi, the show's director. "Mr. De Silva was in Maine over a year ago and heard the Waterville Opera House had successfully produced "Fame" earlier that year. He called Diane (Bryan, the Opera House executive director) and asked if he could drive up, see the Opera House and talk with her. He loved the theater and asked Diane during their discussion if she would be interested in opening the U.S. premiere (for "Fame Forever"). The rest is ... yeah, history."

Young Chelsea Tyler and more than 50 other hopefuls joined old pros such as Lauren Sterling, Kim Gordon and Cheri Begin.

"Everyone is so fantastic," said Tyler during a recent rehearsal break. "Mike Peterson (the musical director), Holly Collins, our dance director, and her mother, Keltie (the choreographer, along with Natalya Getman), are really extremely talented women.

"Director Deb Susi has such an eye for every detail on stage, it's no wonder she was chosen to direct the U.S. premiere. She's tireless. And wait until you see Chad Lefebvre's set design," she added, "it's incredible." (Lefebvre, a Waterville native, is a design student at the University of Connecticut and popped up to design this set.)

The rehearsal pianist strikes a chord and everyone braces for another grueling hour. No one complains, no one gripes or drops. They can all smell it, from the dressing rooms to the ticket booth.

Take a deep breath. It's the sweet smell of success, and this is what it's all about. It's about work, it's about lights, it's about fame -- the stuff dreams are made of.


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