What a treat this afternoon, to be in the audience at Pittsburg Memorial Auditorium for the matinee showing of Fame JR The Musical. This high energy production featured a group of talented kids, from grades 6th through 10th, that had recently completed the Just Off Broadway Theater Camp. My grandson Jonathan, a fearless showman with a beautiful singing voice and all the right dance moves, was part of the ensemble cast.
Fame JR The Musical is based on the internationally acclaimed stage show and movie Fame. Set during the last years of New York City’s High School for the Performing Arts in the early 1980s, Fame JR is the inspiring story of a diverse group of students who commit to four years of grueling artistic and academic work. With candor, humor and insight, the show explores the issues that confront many young people today.
The musical was directed by Pittsburg High School Theatre Director Greg Shaw, with vocal direction by PSU Department of Music graduate Karrie Fenech and choreography by junior McKenna Shaw.
The story within the musical follows the freshman class at the High School for Performing Arts, in NYC, through their senior year. Divided into dancers, actors and musicians, the students must complete academic studies and devote themselves to their crafts.
The students come from a variety of backgrounds, however they all have one thing in common…the desire to achieve fame in their chosen fields. All of the students are talented artistically, however some face academic challenges while some struggle with other issues such as acceptance, arrogance, body image and anger.
As they complete their senior year at the school, one is discovered immediately by a talent agent. The rest realize they have learned valuable life lessons, and that it takes perseverance and hard work to achieve their dreams.
The kids of Just Off Broadway experienced the same determination and hard work as the characters they portrayed, putting in more than 50 hours of rehearsals in the last two weeks. They gave up their evenings and weekends, all while attending school during the day, to follow their own artistic passions.
I am beyond impressed with these young performers. Not only can they act, sing and dance, they appear comfortable under the stage lights and before a large audience. Actually, this group is more than comfortable. The kids had a blast.
The performer I watched the most was Jonathan. This young man, who will be 13 years old next month and just started junior high, amazes me. He’s been performing in plays and musicals, talent shows and concerts for several years. I love how at ease he is on stage and how enthusiastically he enters into each role.
Most of all, I love his heart. He embraces life with a passion and transforms whatever he touches, creating art. The lyrics to the song Fame are very fitting for Jonathan.
“Baby you look at me and tell me what you see
You ain’t seen the best of me yet
Give me time, I’ll make you forget the rest
I’ve got more in me and you can set it free
I can catch the moon in my hand
Don’t you know who I am?
Remember my name
I’m gonna live forever
I’m gonna learn how to fly
I feel it coming together
People will see me and cry
This boy is just getting started. We haven’t seen yet all that he is capable of, all that he will develop and grow into. He has so much more in him to offer to the world as he figures out what he most wants to explore.
Whatever he does, people will remember his name. Someday, in technology, in entertainment, in some fresh combination of the two, Jonathan will make an impact on the world. I watch him and I already cry and not just the word “fame”. They are happy tears full of joy and hope. This kid already flies.