If you liked the record-setting Broadway musical A Chorus Line, you'll enjoy the off-Broadway song-and-dance show Fame — The Musical, opening Thursday for a three-weekend run at Richey Suncoast Theatre.
The structure and characters — even some of the songs — look and sound like younger versions of the dancers trying out for a part in A Chorus Line.
The big difference is that Fame takes place in the short-lived New York High School of Performing Arts, where young potential students are vying for spots in the classrooms (Pray I Make P.A.).
They're a diverse bunch: the ambitious former child actor Nick (Austin Ciliberti, Benjamin in Dreamcoat), the lovesick Serena (Caitlin Ramirez, Virtue in Anything Goes) and the libidinous Joe Vegas (Cody Carlson, Tommy in The Music Man), who chases the pushy Carmen (Breanna Daniele, Ticket to Broadway), a girl on the brink of serious personal trouble.
Their stories wind between those of Tyrone (Bobby Brandt, Jones in Gone With the Breeze), a super-talented dancer who thinks he can make it on his own without any training or education, and Iris (Mallory Rieger, winner of Pasco County Fair's Hip-Hop contest), a snooty ballerina who mocks Tyrone's dancing style; Mabel (Dariena Cabrera), who worries about her weight (Mabel's Prayer); Schlomo (Joseph Akin), who yearns for Carmen; and Goody (David Laird, Mule in Man of La Mancha) and Lambchops (Ereka Passarella, Shelby in Steel Magnolias; Tate Quinones, Chastity in Anything Goes), members of the school band.
They're ruled over by Mr. Myers (Rich Aront, Mayor in Music Man), the principal; and teachers Mr. Sheinkopf (Mark Lewis, Walter in Chess) and Ms. Bell (Joann Larson, Alma in Music Man), who disagree about Tyrone's career path (Teacher's Argument).
The show has several big production numbers featuring a sizable chorus and numerous dancers doing hip-hop, jazz and tap.
There are disappointments, joy, tragedy, romances, breakups and resolutions, most accompanied or explained through song and dance, the most familiar being the title song, Fame ("I'm gonna live forever; I'm gonna learn how to fly — high").
Fame started out as a 1980 movie, was turned into a long-running TV series, then a reality show, and, finally, in 1988, a stage musical, which made its debut in Miami.
It has been translated into several languages, produced all over the world and seen by more than 4-million people.
Because of the difficulty lining up such a young and racially diverse cast, the Richey Suncoast Theatre production is one of the few ever to be done by a Tampa Bay community theater.