BWW Review: FAME THE MUSICAL at Gala Hispanic Theatre
Luis Salgado is quickly becoming known as an acclaimed director and choreographer. He has just returned from Germany where he served as Associate Director/Choreographer for Cirque du Solieil's PARAMOUR. Two years ago he directed and choreographed the Helen Hayes winning musical IN THE HEIGHTS at the GALA Hispanic Theatre. He is now returning to GALA with his own version of FAME, The Musical.
Let me begin by stating I am a card-carrying holder of "The Luis Salgado Fan Club" which started right after I saw him in the off-Broadway production of IN THE HEIGHTS where he also served as Assistant Latin Choreographer. He stood out on sage with his amazing moves. I happened to meet him right after the show a few blocks from the theater and have admired his work ever since. I saw him again in the Broadway production of IN THE HEIGHTS, later on Broadway in WOMAN ON THE VERGE OF A NERVOUS BREAKDOWN, and ON YOUR FEET.
Now, I finally get the chance to see his work directing and choreographing. I knew I had to see FAME. What a future he has.
This was my first introduction to the GALA Theatre. It is housed in the historic Tivoli Movie Theatre in Washington's Columbia Heights neighborhood in the actual balcony of the restored movie theater built in 1924. Saved from the wrecking ball and beautifully restored, one cannot help but notice the huge dome over the GALA stage which at one time was the balcony over the 2,000 seat movie theater.
Salgado is now getting recognition for his work. After FAME, he is now directing and choreographing AIDA at the Axelrod Performing Arts Center located near Asbury Park, NJ. It runs May 31 to June 16.
His IN THE HEIGHTS received nine Helan Hayes Awards in 2017 and look for many nominations stemming from this impeccable production of FAME. I truly believe this work is Broadway caliber! So, if you have never been to the GALA Hispanic Theatre, now is the time. By the way, I saw FAME in a preview performance and can only imagine how it has improved.
This is GALA'S 43rd season and FAME is the U.S. premiere of a bilingual adaptation which is credited to Salgado Productions. There are two large television screens on each side of the stage which feature surtitles so it is easy to follow regardless in what language the actors are saying. I personally would like surtitles for every musical I see.
This is not the first musical I have seen in a foreign language. I reviewed the hit musical PRISCILLA, QUEEN OF THE DESERT in Athens which was done entirely in Greek except the music was in English. After all, this website (now celebrating our 16th Anniversary) is called "Broadwayworld"!
You may recall the 1980 film "FAME" starring Irene Cara and watching the students of the New York High School of the Performing Arts dancing in the street and leeping on cars. It is best known for the Oscar-winning title song by Dean Pritchard and Michael Gore.
The film was conceived, developed, and produced by David DeSilva which became a hit television series fom 1982 to 1987. DeSilva then began developing his show for Broadway with music by Steve Margoshes, lyrics by Jacques Levy, and book by Cuban-born writer Jose Fernandez. It was originally produced at the Coconut Grove Playhouse. It did make it to off-Broadway in 2003 called "Fame on 42nd Street" but not to Broadway. Maybe now is the time.
Salgado brought back his collaborator from IN THE HEIGHTS Walter "Bobby" Mc
Coy to serve as Musical Director with a desire to add more Latin sound to the orchestrations. The terrific 9-piece orchestra is located in back and above the stage. Notice the timbales, congas, and bongos added to the orchestrations. There are three guest students in the "pit": Melody Flores on violin (she even occasionally play on stage) from the Duke Ellington School of the Arts, Kendell Haywood (drums) and Andrew Velez (trumpet) both from George Mason University.
You will notice an international cast on stage. There is even one from Japan, Magumi Shimoda. There are a total of 25 in the cast and the ensemble works beautifully together. They are a treat to watch. You will see plenty of ballet, jazz, and hip-hop.
Paula Calvo excels in her break-out role of Carmen Diaz and she nails the title tune "Fame". It is exhilarating. Alana Thomas is a dancer with weight problems but showcases an exceptional voice. Juan Luis Espinal is superb as Schlomo (a Dominican Jew easily recognized with his skull cap). Carlos Salazar and Tanya de Leon work wonders as Nick Piazza and Serena Katz.
The female teachers, Susan Oliveras, (Mrs. Esther Sherman) and Teresa Quigly Danskey (Mrs. Greta Bell) both have opportunities to display their pipes. Imanol Fuentes Garcia is so believable as a teacher and interacts well with the comedic timing of Rafael Beato's funny Joe "Jose" Vegas.
The design team deserves a great deal of recognition. Christopher Annas-Lee does the fabulous lighting, Clifton Chadick does the great Scenic Design (loved the use of actual school lockers which roll in and out along with a grand piano, and seats on wheels, Robert Croghan the Costume Designer and Roc Lee the Sound Designer.
FAME the Musical runs until June 9, 2019 at the GALA Hispanic Theatre, 3333 14th Street, Washington, DC, NW. For tickets, call 202-234-7174 or visit www.galatheatre.org.
Parking behind the theater is available for $4 at the Giant parking lot.
I highly recommend Bombay Street Food located around the corner from the
GALA. Check out their web site at www.bombaystreetfood.us or call 202-758-2415.
DVR ALERT: The Tony-nominated hit musical THE PROM will be on The Late Show Monday night, May 20.
Photo Credit: Stan Weinstein