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Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Fame is about dreaming big

Fame really is universal. Based on the 1980 Alan Parker film, Fame: The Musical has been translated into a dozen languages as it tells its story of a group of students at the High School of Performing Arts. In August, Vancouver’s Bring On Tomorrow Co presents the English language version of the musical, set four years after the film made the school famous.

In this Q&A with director Lalainia Lindbjeg Strelau, we find out more.

Q[/dropcap]How did you come about to choose Fame?

We first came together as a production company, knowing that we wanted to work on a project together.  Then we agreed we wanted a show that did two things: featured the incredible young talent that the Lower Mainland has to offer, and represented the diversity of our population here in Vancouver.  When we looked at Fame it had those two elements.

Q[/dropcap]What was it about the musical that excited you?

For me, it was the bitter sweet authenticity of the storyline.  It chooses to represent both the positive and negative issues that arise for those who decide as teenagers to pursue a career in the performing arts. It spoke to the truths that I know on a deep, personal level. I started my performing career in Vancouver at seven years old in the early 80’s and though I have had many wonderful, positive experiences, there have also been many difficulties as a result of such a difficult and fickle industry.

Q[/dropcap]It takes place in the 1980s, what makes it still relevant today?

I think we are as obsessed with fame, celebrity, the entertainment business, and high achievement as much or even more so than we have ever been.  Also, the drive for success and to gain notoriety in ones work is a universal desire.

Q[/dropcap]It is a show about show business – what’s in it for audiences that are not connected to show business?

That’s a great question. Though the show chronicles young people in a performing arts high school, I think it is, more than anything, a show about people who dream big, and who pursue those dreams no matter the cost.

Specifically, for young people, I think it is exciting and inspiring to see such a young, multi-talented cast in a professional level show.

For the older generation – anyone over 25 –  it takes place during a very nostalgic time in life, the last two years of high school.  Fame definitely gives you the opportunity to journey back to that time and visit both the good and bad … not to mention side pony tails, Flashdance sweatshirts, and leg warmers.

Q[/dropcap]The advance press talks of innovative staging – can you give us an idea of what audiences can expect?

A huge part of our staging has to do with creating an electric and realistic environment of a performing arts school in the middle of inner-city New York. We are hoping that from the moment our audience arrives, they are instantly transported into the heart of the city and the unique and intense environment of a Performing Arts High School.

Q[/dropcap]The production will feature a diverse cast – did you consciously seek out the diversity? Why was that important?

Yes, absolutely It was part of our discussion from day one that we wanted a cast that not only represented a New York Inner City school, but also celebrated the many different cultures and races that are represented in our own great city.

Q[/dropcap]Much has been talked about recently in the theatre community about diversity – is this your response to that discussion?

Partially.  One of our team members followed the issues very closely and had become very passionate about making sure that our company was one of integrity and that we would seek out casting the specific ethnicity that was represented in the casting breakdown.  However, we had already decided that we wanted to properly represent a cross-section of cultures and races to represent our own city.

Q[/dropcap]Why should someone come see Fame?

Honestly? It is one of the best casts ever assembled in Vancouver.  I know that is a big statement, but I honestly mean it.  I have been in the business for a long time in Vancouver, and I am continually blown away by their talent.  It is going to be a show Vancouver won’t soon forget.

Fame: The Musical plays the Firehall Arts Centre (280 E Cordova St, Vancouver) from August 11-21. Visit for tickets and information.

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