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ReelTalk Movie Reviews
Performing Arts Showcase
by Betty Jo Tucker

Viewers who’ve never been involved in the performing arts may not enjoy Fame as much as I did. To me, this updating of the original film beautifully highlights the joys and heartbreaks that come with dedication to dance, music, and drama. One of the most satisfying jobs I ever had was being a college dean assigned to supervise those creative areas. The students and teachers in Fame remind me of the talented people I dealt with in that capacity. How wonderful to see such exciting rehearsals and performances again!                 

Fame follows a multi-cultural group of gifted high school students from their auditions through graduation at the New York Academy of Performing Arts. The main characters are: a concert pianist (Naturi Naughton) who wants to be a vocalist instead; a lovely yet bored ballerina (Kherington Payne) who admits dance is her life; an angry young man (Collins Penne) with drama in mind; a shy girl (Kay Panabaker) with a sweet voice but low self-esteem; a very funny youngster (Paul Iacono) who sees himself as the future Steven Spielberg; a handsome teen (Asher Book) who’s good at everything; an acting wannabe (Anna Maria Perez de Tagle) who ends up on Sesame Street; an average male dancer (Paul McGill) with above average ambition; and a budding composer (Walter Perez) who dares to challenge his instructor about Bach. Of course, as in real life, not everyone makes it through to graduation.                   

By spending a little time with each of these students, we learn a bit about their problems and desires. However, most of all, we have the opportunity to watch them perform. Scene stealers all, but Naturi Naughton emerges as the most powerful new star here. When she sang “Out Here on My Own” in an empty auditorium after practicing her classical piano piece, you could hear a pin drop at the screening I attended. Everyone in the audience seemed almost hypnotized by Naturi’s gorgeous voice. That’s my favorite scene among many delightful ones. I also enjoyed the “Someone To Watch Over Me” sequence featuring Kay Panabaker and Asher Book. Plus the photogenic Kherington Payne sizzles on screen in her dynamic “Black and Gold” dance routine, and Megan Mullally -- who portrays one of the teachers -- wowed me with her sensational rendition of “You Took Advantage of Me.” My only complaint? Because Bebe Neuwirth also plays an instructor, I was disappointed we didn’t see her dance on screen. 

Kudos to debuting director Kevin Tancheroen for combining all types of music in this movie -- I was afraid it might be too hip-hop heavy. And I also loved the variety of Marguerite Derricks’ choreography. She even includes tap!

As the world’s most avid movie musical fan, I’m happy to report that Fame put me in a very good mood indeed.   

(Released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and rated “PG” for thematic material including teen drinking, a sexual situation and language.)

For more information about Fame, go to the Internet Movie Data Base or Rotten Tomatoes website.

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