note: entire contents copyright 2014 by Sheila Barth
It’s refreshing to sit back for two hours and watch a group of 31 talented teens sing, dance and act together, giving it all they’ve got.
In Boston Children’s Theatre (BCT) Summer Studio 4’s three-day, fully-staged performance of “Fame,” last week at Shore Country Day School, Beverly, student performers, ages 14-19, realized their thespian dream, reflective of the characters they portrayed.
The musical,conceived and developed by David DeSilva, with book by Jose Fernandez, features Jacques Levy’s lyrics, Steve Margoshes‘ music, and Dean Pitchford and Michael Gore’s title song, “Fame”. It’s based on the Academy Award-winning film and Emmy-winning TV series.
The award-winning musical ran in tandem, or rotation, with another family favorite musical, humorous “The Addams Family,” featuring an entirely different cast and crew.
Summer Studio 4 combined local, veteran youth performers with aspiring thespians from New England, Maryland and Kansas.
In the Beverly private school’s lush, new theater, BCT adds fantastic multimedia touches, especially in the show’s opening. Two large monitors on both sides of the theater beam exciting Manhattan streetscapes. Lighting designer John Malinowski’s multi-colored backdrops and towers, along with sound designer Toby Schine’s special effects, add dramatic clout to Janie Howland’s multi-level set. However, Music Director Robert Rucinski on keyboard and his two accompanying musicians on stage kindly insure the student performers’ voices are heard, loud and clear in solos and duets, but strongly support large ensemble song-and-dance numbers, choreographed and directed by Brian Dillon.
Although everyone in this student cast has fine performance skills, there are standouts, whose star is on the rise.
Whether she’s singing, dancing, or acting, pretty Elle Shaheen of Portsmouth, NY (granddaughter of Democratic US Senator Jeanne Shaheen of NH), glows with star power. Portraying naive Serena Katz, who’s starstruck with her fellow student, TV child actor Nick Piazza (Michael Saracco of Melrose), Elle draws sympathetic “aws!” and enthusiastic applause in her solo and reprise, “Let’s Play a Love Scene”. Saracco makes sweet harmony with Shaheen, but unleashes his own vocal skill, declaring he wants to become a serious actor, in “I Want to Make Magic”. Nick changes Serena’s hero worship of him and her attitude in the second act, when she delivers her solid solo, “Think of Meryl Streep”.
Jamaica Plain’s Shayna Bredback comically brightens and lightens several scenes as chunky cutie, always hungry, Mabel Washington, and belts out a powerful solo, “Mabel’s Prayer”.
Newton’s Tema Siegel injects pathos, drama, and self-destruction as drug addict Carmen Diaz. Siegel snares the spotlight with her knock-out renditions of “There She Goes,” coupled with theme song, “Fame,” and her gut-wrenching “In L.A.” Carmen exhibits a softer side with violin prodigy Schlomo Metzenbaum (nicely portrayed by Brendan Callahan of Rowley), as the two teens from divergent backgrounds fall in love, blending their voices and cultures in “Bring on Tomorrow”.
South Boston’s graceful ballerina, Alessandra Antonelli, is charming as Iris Kelly, a chauffeur’s daughter whom the other students think is a rich French student, and Hamilton’s Lucy Perotta as hard-boiled English teacher Miss Sherman, delivers a resounding solo, “These Are My Children”.
After a touching graduation scene, the cast bursts into a rip-roaring, catchy finale of “Fame,” jumping off the stage, singing and dancing in the aisles, inspiring the audience to clap, move, and join in their hopes for tomorrow.