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December 27, 2009

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'Fame' scores with universal appeal

EVER since its debut in 1988, "Fame," the Broadway musical, has toured around 30 countries and regions, winning high praise from spectators.

So far the musical based on the 1980 film of the same name has grossed more than US$300 million.

It is the first time both the show and its veteran producer David De Silva have stopped in Shanghai, bringing an inspiring message to young, aspiring wannabes who dream of overnight fame.

"Fame" is currently running at Shanghai City Theater through to January 3 in its original English version with Chinese subtitles.

It centers on a group of talented kids entering the famous High School for Performing Arts in New York.

Though the students come from different backgrounds, they share the same dream of being famous. But gradually they find that fame is hard work and must be won one song, one dance at a time.

Silva is widely known as "Father Fame." He conceived, created and produced the MGM motion picture, which received six Academy Award nominations, winning Best Song for "Fame" and Best Original Score.

He was also consulting producer on the "Fame" television series that ran for six years and was broadcast in over 60 countries in different languages. But then Silva found that his heart was in stage and that "Fame" could truly "live forever" in the theater.

He says the story about discovering one's uniqueness and the pursuit of dreams has universal appeal.

Q: Why did you want to make a musical stage version of the Oscar-winning film "Fame?"

A: My first love has always been theater. When I sold the screen play to MGM, I retained the stage rights because I always knew I would develop it as a stage musical.

The story is organically musical because it brings together students who are training to sing and dance.

In movies the creative process is over when the camera stops shooting. In the world of live theater it lives on for performers and audiences forever.

Q: In your opinion, what's the major reason for the long-time popularity of "Fame?"

A: A major reason for its popularity is that it is the ultimate inspirational musical for young people. The ethnic and social mix of characters is theatrically dramatic. Everyone in the audience has a character they can relate to and care about.

Q: What kind of message does "Fame" want to convey to the Chinese audience, who may have different taste from Americans?

A: "Fame" has proven all over the world that it relates to a universal taste. For example both the Italian and French governments have supported national tours of the show in their countries.

Hundreds of school productions are produced every year in many countries and in many languages. I think young Chinese audiences will be very receptive to the music and the energy of the show.

Q: Compared with other stage productions which also focus on the dreams of young people, what's the unique charm of "Fame?" In the future will it include some new fashionable elements to cater to new generations of young people?

A: "Fame" is locked into a special time which is 1980 to 1984. This was a more romantic period in America, before hip-hop reality affected high school students. So musically it will always be locked into this period.

The unique charm of "Fame" is that it covers four years of relationships in high school from freshmen to senior years. And it is bittersweet to see how these relationships change and grow with time.

Q: Star-making reality TV shows are very popular in China such as "My Show" and "Super Girl." Is it also common for American young people to gain quick fame though such shows?

A: Reality TV is very popular in the United States but to me that is all about being an instant celebrity. "Fame" is about training and discipline and learning your craft.

As the opening number in the musical goes it's "hard work." It needs good teachers and dedication.

I believe that the training you get in a school like "Performing Arts" will teach you to be confident and successful in life no matter what you do professionally.

Q: What's your new working plan after "Fame?"

A: My dream plan is to come back to China in 2011 to see a Chinese company perform "Fame" in Mandarin.

And that "Fame" will become a springboard for Chinese talent who can do everything in musical theater - act, sing and dance.

And even compose and create new contemporary theater works for Chinese audiences.


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