What better group to play teens living out their academic years in a performing arts high school than a bunch of local actors who range in age from eight to 17?
Though “Fame” is generally a stage show played by older actors, Little Theatre in Wilkes-Barre is putting on a production that showcases those of a much younger age, “Fame, Jr.”
The show follows a group of students who attend the High School of Performing Arts, among them actress Serena, fame-hungry Carmen, funny guy Joe, timid violinist Schlomo, and dancer Tyrone, from freshmen to senior year.
The production has it all, showcasing a multi-ethnic cast whose characters' talents cover the entertainment gamut – singers, actors, and dancers – and high-energy songs that help highlight the insight and life lessons the show has to offer.
For Angel Berlane Mulcahy, who is directing the show, it's the perfect production for young, aspiring actors and actresses to get involved in.
“When you take 'Fame' and you take kids like this, it's the perfect format,” she said. “The characters are attending a place that's all about performing arts, and the kids are craving and wanting it every day. You can see that with many of them during practices; that this is what they want to do.
“It's also great because some of the cast members have done theater, and for others, this is their first show. You can see the more experienced ones take the new members under their wing and show them how things are done. It's a nice dynamic.”
Mulcahy enjoys the experience of working with children because, as someone who began acting when she was eight, she recognizes the need for opportunities like this.
“Once you're bitten by the showbiz bug, well, that's it,” she said with a laugh. “It's important that you have a safe space to pursue that in. Throughout my theater years, there were people in my life that were so kind and patient and warm, and I remember those people so fondly. I try to give that to these kids now.”
Even if you aren't someone with performing arts aspirations, “Fame” will still resonate.
“Everybody has a dream,” Mulcahy said. “Everybody wants a chance, has a drive to do something, just like the kids in the show.”
It takes only a minute or two of practice to see the eagerness in the cast, which totals around 35.
Brothers Solomon and Scott Myers, 13 and 10 respectively, are first-time actors, and they're loving every second of it.
“I was actually supposed to do the lights and sound, but I wanted to audition and ended up making it as a main character,” Solomon said of his foray into the show, during which he plays Schlomo, the violinist.
Solomon loves the opportunity to play someone who is completely opposite of himself.
“Schlomo comes from a very rich family with parents who are extremely hard on him, and he's not athletic at all, so, yeah, he's nothing like me,” he said.
And what of his brother Scott's character, dancer Tyrone?
“Oh, you are totally him,” Solomon said to Scott immediately after the question was asked. Scott couldn't agree more.
“Tyrone is very sassy to his teachers, but they give him sass back, and he is not happy about that,” he said. “My guy also expresses his love for dance, so I have a ballet scene and get to do a tap dance.”
Adam Ercolani plays Nick, a character that he feels is very close to his own personality.
“He sings a song about how he wants to impress people on stage, and that's very fitting for me personally,” he said. “That's what I want to do. I love being on stage, and Nick does, too.”
Ava Gonzales also feels likeness to her character, Carmen.
“She just always wants to be famous, like 'insta-fame,'” the young, first-time actress said of her part in the show. “I like her because I like to sing and do the things she does.”
Kaylah Hodgins, 15, plays Mrs. Sheinkopf, a German music teacher. It's a roll that is the complete opposite of its actress, and that's something Hodgins relishes in.
“I would rather play a character like this,” she said, “because it's totally different from everyday life. I don't have as much fun playing someone that's similar to who I am.”
So, does that mean she has adopted a German accent to go along with the comedic school marm she plays?
“Oh, jeez,” she said with a laugh, “I'm working on it.”