Gonna be famous

Carson Performing Arts does a spectacular production of Fame—The Musical

Carmen (Alisha Kaskie) fronts a high school band in <i>Fame—The Musical.</i>

Carmen (Alisha Kaskie) fronts a high school band in Fame—The Musical.

Photo by Adrienne Rice

Rated 4.0

I don’t know what their secret is, but the theater folks down in Carson City are doing something right. I have yet to make the 30-mile drive and be disappointed.

Director Karen Chandler-Gillie, fresh off a phenomenal production of I Hate Hamlet, offers an almost as impressive production of Fame—The Musical with Carson Performing Arts.

Unfortunately, Chandler-Gillie could not be there Friday night due to the recent passing of her husband, actor John Gillie. The production has been dedicated to Gillie, and in the program, a note from Chandler-Gillie reads: “… and finally to my love, John, who was as much responsible for creating this program as I, for I could not have done it without his love, his help, his faith in me.”

Chandler-Gillie’s daughter took over the directing duties in her mother’s place, and if the last-minute switch had any negative impacts, it certainly didn’t show.

The Carson City Community Center was nearly packed, and theater-goers were lined up at the doors 30 minutes before show time to get the best seats. The crowd was diverse; parents juggled well-behaved babies and teenage girls waved to friends across the rows of seats. The only drawback to this cozy community feeling was that audience members talked throughout the entire performance, cheering a little too heartily for their on-stage friends and family members, so that the scene felt a bit like a high school graduation ceremony at times.

But the audience’s antics couldn’t detract from the stellar performance on stage. I don’t how Carson Performing Arts managed to get so many talented teenagers together for one show; I don’t have enough space to write about them all, or I would.

If you haven’t seen the movie, TV show or play before, here’s a quick plot summary: Fame—The Musical chronicles a class of students at New York’s legendary High School for the Performing Arts. The aspiring dancers, actors and musicians dream of making it big—hopefully passing English class along the way.

Alisha Kaskie steals the limelight as Carmen, a Latina dancer and singer whose desire for fame and fortune is unparalleled, and whose eventual downfall is all too real and tragic. Kaskie’s dynamic stage presence is undeniable, and her dancing is superb. Her singing is kittenish and occasionally off-pitch, but competent, and her many solos are enjoyable. You won’t be able to take your eyes off that electric smile.

As Ty, the nearly illiterate but talented street dancer, Ju Seung is a natural. He presents the obnoxious, girl-crazy character well, and when Ty’s rudimentary reading ability threatens to destroy his dancing career, Seung displays a very believable vulnerability. He’s especially good when he’s dancing, although I had a little trouble hearing him sing at times. I also had trouble hearing him rapping, but that’s probably because the entire crowd went wild when he started busting rhymes.

Kevin Bunch and Brianne Bassler, as acting students Nick and Serena, were the strongest singers of the lead characters and truly a treat to listen to. They also fit their characters well, looking and behaving every bit the naïve and earnest ingénues. Watch for the Romeo and Juliet scene for a startling display of intensity and passion—these kids are good.

For Georgia Wright, who played the overweight, wise-cracking Mabel, I’ll have to pare my praise down to one word: hilarious.

In brief: As long as the capital keeps it up, I’ll be happily putting a lot more mileage on my car.