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Theater preview: 'Fame' lives forever in stage musical

Published: Tuesday, July 7 2015 2:14 p.m. MDT

Natale McAneney, Jeremy Egan and Allie Hurtado in the Grand Theatre production of Natale McAneney, Jeremy Egan and Allie Hurtado in the Grand Theatre production of "Fame the Musical." (Steve Fidel)

“I wanna live forever ... I wanna learn how to fly.” Even if you weren’t a teenager when the 1980 film opened, you can’t read these words without recalling Irene Cara’s exuberance when she sang the title song of “Fame.”

An NBC television series followed the Oscar-winning movie, along with a second film version in 2009. And now “Fame” is a stage musical.

“ ‘Fame the Musical’ is a completely new work,” says David Hanson, who directs the Grand Theatre production.

Nearly as memorable as the title song is the film’s most emblematic scene of students dancing on cars outside the landmark High School of Performing Arts building in New York City.

“We all know kids in the performing arts. They do break out into song, in the street, in the lunchroom at school,” he says.

Allie Hurtado, Jeremy Egan and Natale McAneney in the Grand Theatre production of Allie Hurtado, Jeremy Egan and Natale McAneney in the Grand Theatre production of "Fame the Musical." (Steve Fidel)

“Like the other incarnations of ‘Fame,’ the stage musical centers on a group of students in theater arts, music arts and dance arts, and tracks them through their time at the school, until their graduation. It’s got all the flashy dance numbers and music pieces, but it also focuses on their journey and how they learn to deal with each other.”

Producer David De Silva had the idea to follow aspiring performers while they study and develop their talents at the arts-focused specialty school. De Silva developed the original film and was consulting producer on the TV series, and he became known as “Father Fame” once the stage version began development.

“It’s not about getting kids to be professional performers,” he told a reporter. “It’s really about getting them to appreciate the arts, that it will change their lives forever by making them aware of music, theater and dance.”

The stage musical is set in the final years of “PA” before it merged in 1984 with the High School of Music and Art to create what is now known as the Fiorello La Guardia School of the Arts and was relocated to a modern facility adjacent to Lincoln Center.

The students are well aware of their school’s reputation, and the teachers are determined that the school’s prominence will not go to the students’ heads. Making reference to the title song lyric and a prominent scene in the movie, the straight-laced English teacher Miss Sherman tells the new students, “If you believe you’re gonna live forever or envision dancing on tops of cars down 46th Street, you are humming the wrong tune.”

While the focus of the story of “Fame” is aspiring performers, Hanson explains the story’s theme takes on a larger meaning for audiences.

“All of us while we were kids had dreams of big fanfare moments that we wanted to achieve, whether it was in the arts world, like in ‘Fame,’ or business or sports, or any endeavor,” he says. “The story relates to a broader audience because a lot of this is about chasing your dreams, and the successes and challenges that come with it.”

If you go…

What: “Fame the Musical”

Where: The Grand Theatre

When: Oct. 10-26

How much: $10-$24

Tickets: 801-957-3322 or the-grand.org

Copyright 2015, Deseret News Publishing Company