Doin’ it for the fame ? without the Disney glossIn this space, I have admitted to being a huge Star Trek nerd and a virgin until I was 21, and now it’s time to add more fuel to the masochistic fire: In high school, I was in show choir. And not just because it was the only elective left to choose - I loved it, and probably devoted more time to it then than I do to my full-time job today.
So even without seeing the original “Fame,” I knew all the music. The title track in particular was a favorite of the competitive choral scene.
Fame was the original “High School Musical,” so the only thing to ask about the appearance of a remake is: What took them so long?
The film is divided into four parts, in which we follow one class through their four years at New York’s High School of Performing Arts (which still exists in real New York as part of LaGuardia High School). There’s the hardworking Jenny (Kay Panabaker), an actress and singer who faces the tough task of learning confidence; Denise (Naturi Naughton), a brilliant classical piano student whose wealthy father keeps her from singing R&B despite her beautiful voice; and most interesting, Kevin (Paul McGill), a ballet dancer who just doesn’t have what it takes.
And that’s what sets Fame apart from the meaningless platitudes of the Disney Channel fairy-tale that preceded it - there is no happy ending waiting for Kevin. He just has to accept that he doesn’t have the talent to go pro, as so many aspiring artists do every year. The makers of this new version ramp up the grit, making sure we know this is New York, not suburban Utah. It’s refreshing how “Fame” deals with teen drinking, depression, even attempted suicide. The way to teach our children that it’s possible to face these challenges and succeed is not to censor them out of our fiction.
That said, it is a stretch to say the least to think that Malik (Collins Pennie), whose father left and whose sister was murdered, would be forced to go through these things with his acting teacher in the way the film depicts.
With the exception of the finale, the musical numbers support the action rather than overshadow it, even if that does mean none of the new songs are likely to end up as memorable as the score to the 1980 version.
Years after I graduated from high school and hung up my sequined vest, my family moved to New York City, where my little brother now goes to the LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts. I don’t think he’s ever participated in an orchestral hip-hop lunch room jam or a modern dance carnival spectacular, but he does make a dynamite Don Giovanni.
Drama, Musical / English
By Ben Applegate [firstname.lastname@example.org]
Naturi Naughton plays Denise, a pianist-turned-singer, in “Fame.”[CineSeoul]