Saturday, February 24, 2018
Stage

Young performers bring their own dreams to the stage in Fame

SPRING HILL — They dream of seeing their names in lights as professional dancers, Broadway stars or rock 'n' roll sensations. Dreams so many have, but few achieve.

Perhaps it's that slight glimmer of a chance that keeps many striving to reach the stars. And it could be why, nearly 35 years later, the students at the New York City High School of Performing Arts continue to entertain audiences with their dreams of making it big.

The fictional school and its students will come alive when Fame — The Musical opens this weekend at Stage West Community Playhouse.

"The show is going great; they are ready," said director Patty Villegas. "These kids have voices that will just blow you away. We have fantastic dancers. There is not one weak link among them. They are wonderful."

The production includes a cast of about 27 young performers from Hernando and Pasco counties, ranging in ages from 13 to 23, who bring to life the fame-obsessed dancer Carmen Diaz; Tyrone, the dancer who cannot read; Schlomo, the violinist; serious actor Nick; ambitious actress Serena; and Joe the comedian.

In her first starring role as Carmen, 16-year--old Laura Bennett admits it has been a challenge to portray a character who is a "triple threat," a role that requires singing, dancing and acting.

"It would be too easy to portray Carmen as two-dimensional," Bennett said. "But there is much more to her. She is not just this pretentious girl. Carmen has pressures from her parents and herself to work harder than everyone else. … She's actually much deeper than you'd think."

And it's the scenes that delve into her relationship with Schlomo and her ultimate downfall that show Carmen's true character, and what Bennett loves best in her portrayal of the role.

Louis Bermudez, 23, said his role as Tyrone has him "both in and out of my comfort zone." While he does well with the hip-hop dancing — even assisting with the show's choreography — Bermudez says that he had never done ballet until this show.

"But my favorite scene is when I do Pas de Deux with Iris," he said. "I caught on (with the ballet) pretty quick."

In her role as Iris, 16-year-old Elizabeth Morgan says this has been her first chance to bring her talents as a ballerina to the stage. She has been dancing since she was 3 and has done some preprofessional ballets.

Some performers admit that their roles require very little "acting."

As Mabel, the dancer who struggles with her weight, Brianna Bermudez said, "It's not acting. Mabel is me. … I do like to eat, I do love to dance and I'm obnoxious."

And as Goody, 13-year-old saxophonist Chris Rocanelli says: "I feel I'm playing my future. (Goody) is doing what I love to do."

The show also stars Jamie Smeriglio as Nick (who just won Stage West's Rising Star HAMI award), Abigail Brazier as Serena, Matthew Romeo as Joe, Christian Gonzalez as Schlomo, Briana Rifino as Lambchops, Nina Mackin as Miss Sherman the English teacher, Amanda Waters as Ms. Bell the dance teacher, Christian Braz as Mr. Sheinkopf the music teacher and Anthony Cromartie as Mr. Meyers the drama teacher.

The music director is Ashley McCall. Toni Merchant is the choreographer, and Miranda Griffith is the production's stage manager. Patty Watters is in charge of costumes.

Production coordinator Linda Campo said the entire cast is to be admired for its hard work.

"They are always up and ready to work," Campo said.

In fact, she said, the entire set was designed and built by the cast.

"They wanted to do it all by themselves," she said. "Not one grown-up has helped. … They really are amazing."

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