Julia Loveless, Director:
As I have not seen the musical, what are the differences between that and the original film?
The musical is set after the film. It the story of the Performing Arts School at the end of its life, the last cohort of students are going through their courses before the school closed in 1984. It’s a multiple story-line script, following numerous students and their stories in their time at PA.
As Fame is one of my favourite films, as I’m sure it is of many people, how did you aim to put your own stamp on this as well as the musical itself?
The one thing I’m aiming for is to get people realising just how many good songs there are in this show – not just the title number which seems to be the only one most people are familiar with since its rise to stardom.
Do you feel that there is a lot of honesty in the way the plot doesn’t have pretentions about the realities of the performing arts world? Did you aim to convey this at all?
Yes, there’s a lot of honesty. It’s tough because it kind of contradicts itself – the script give honesty about how hard everyone’s finding it and yet the numbers are vibrant and bright as if saying it’s easy. So it conveys itself really, but there are a few key scenes where the spectacle breaks down and reality really hits home so those have been put in sharp focus.
What is your perception of the performing arts world? What is it that you love about it?
For me, DULOG is just great fun. With the Gala show, it’s a chance to accept the challenge to put on a show in a professional space for over 500 people each night. It’s a lot of work, but what I like about it is you get out what you put in – yes, you’re exhausted but the more effort you invest in a show like this the more satisfaction and reward you’ll be receiving for it.
How are the chorus used as opposed to individual characters in this particular production?
The chorus are great. There’s so much dancing in this show and they’re the real stars for these numbers. They’ve had to learn so much and many of them aren’t even dance-trained. It’s been amazing to see them manage this. They’re also very excellent at creating PA’s hard working core of students.
How did the rehearsals go? Did they allow you to achieve your vision of the production or change it in any way?
Rehearsals were so much fun. We had logistical challenges with Elvet being shut down after the flooding, but we clawed through to the end of last term and then blitzed the show in the week before term in the DSU. It was an exhausting week, but it was worth it because we now have an incredible production to show for it. I was most proud with the realisation of my NY Rhythm vision. I’m not going to say more, because I want it to be a surprise.
What is it like making a production in The Gala Theatre as opposed to The Assembly Rooms?
It’s just a lot more challenging. There’s a lot more to think about. You need to be aware of using the space you’re granted, aware of a complicated set and of the technical liberties that are available to you in the Gala. There’s just more to think about, but that’s what makes it even more exciting.
Frances Teehan, Choreographer:
What was the rehearsal schedule like?
With such a dance heavy production the rehearsal schedule was naturally quite dance orientated. We covered most of the dances in the first couple of weeks so that everyone had a general idea of what they would be doing. As the scenes and songs were mastered the dances still had a fair way to go, a natural result when most of the cast have not had any dance training. However, the cast have been phenomenal and have approached each number with enthusiasm and determination. Following the Christmas holidays it was evident that many of them had been practising regularly as we were able to take the basic dances and polish them to the standard that they are now at.
How did the task of organising such an important feature of a full-scale production go?
Once the production team had laid out all they needed to cover Julia did a brilliant job of patching a rehearsal schedule together. As a group we would then discuss whether it needed changing or not. For example, a number such as the ‘Junior Festival’ in which there is ballet, rhythm and flamenco-esque dance there was obviously going to be a lot more time needed than the smaller-scale number ‘Can’t Keep it Down’. As the weeks passed we would adjust the timetable as and when we needed to. It is very difficult to predict how long a number will take. As everyone was studying for a degree at the same time as rehearsing for a show there were occasions where energy levels weren’t as high as other times – normally around deadline periods and subsequently it would take longer to teach dances. On the other hand, there were many rehearsals where the cast had loads of energy and it really showed. They would attack the routine and have it mastered far quicker than I ever could have imagined! The other element of this process was obviously trying to choreograph everything in time for rehearsals! People can often forget that it takes a lot of time to figure out where 30 people are going to be on stage! I would often draw diagrams of where I wanted everyone to be and then make up the steps that would dance. Sometimes it would be tight with dances finished just before a rehearsal started but overall I think we did very well. I hope it shows how much work everyone has put in!
Alex Wingfield, Actor:
As Fame exposes the reality of the enormous odds against actors becoming successful, what is your philosophy in maintaining your ambition and pursuing your goal?
As a Durham student playing the role of a young man aiming to pursue a career in the Arts, the role of Tyrone Jackson in Fame could not be more appropriate. Music and theatre are professions that are notably difficult to succeed in, and I have always tried to approach the profession with the attitude that if I don’t go for it now, then that chance will run away from me. The corporate world of office jobs does not interest me in the slightest, and so I would much rather attempt to succeed in what I love to do than regret not knowing whether it was possible. I can’t wait to be in London, studying for a career I hope will serve me for the rest of my life!