Friday, May 14, 2010
...... and right here's where you start paying.... in sweat!"
The opening credits of the Fame movie, as quoted by Debbie Allen.
Oh, and how well I remember the follow up TV series: The Kids from Fame.
I used to rush home to see it, video recorders were few and far between in my youth you see. No surprise there, given that that was a million, trillion years ago! So says WiiBoy anyway!
My eyes would be glued to the screen waiting for the perfunctory, bound to be fabulous, dance routine that accompanied each episode. It never disappointed. A bit like I do today whenever I get a chance to look at Glee ...... Glee is an updated, quirky and comedic version of Kids From Fame, I reckon.
Just yesterday I was going through my musical collections of yore (for an up and coming project!!) and came across a cassette tape (told ya it was a million,trillion years ago!) with the above picture on the front.
I played a song I hadn't listened to in years and the memories came flooding back. It was "Lay Back and Be Cool" and was sung by Leroy in the series. Damn... I found a YouTube link but embedding has been disabled!! Damn! Hard to believe Leroy (Gene Anthony Ray) got away with wearing those teensy weensy shorts!! Check out the song link above for an ...um.."brief" reminder!
I remembered that a group of five of us got together and formed a little group (can't believe I'm sharing this!) and called ourselves Heartbeat!! God love us! One of the girls sang the song (fabulously) and we were the backing dancers and vocalists.... or The Wah-Wah's as we called them!! My best show pal choreographed it. And we, ahem (Oh God...why am I telling you this??!) sent a recording of us into the RTE Talent programme of the day: Screen Test! We called on a fellow show pal who was an up and coming Musical Director to help us out. He recorded it and checked our harmonies. Lorraine Barry also gave our performance the once over!
It was a long time ago. We didn't make it on to the TV series but we did make it as far as the final auditions for it. It was a great experience, a learning curve and as such I don't really regret it!
Thankfully, talent shows have moved on considerably since those days. And RTE's current one is the aptly named Fame The Musical. It follows the usual format for these shows in it's search for the male and female leads (Nick and Serena) for the nationwide tour of this West End production.
I know these type of shows aren't everyone's cup of tea but I am really enjoying this one. I think RTE and Screentime Shinawil are doing a fantastic job on this production. For so long now we have sat back watching the UK and USA search for their stars. Aspiring Irish Musical Theatre and Pop Stars have previously had to throw themselves into the UK mix to get any chance of a look in. Ireland always ends up exporting their talented sports and entertaining stars.
So it is fantastic to have our own home-grown talent show, to find our own home-grown talent. Talent abounds in this country too. And, like I've said before, the demise of John Player Tops of the Town means one less avenue for this talent to shine. I really like the fact that the female judge before the live shows was our own home grown talent: Jacinta Whyte....she who made her West End debut at the tender age of 11 in the musical Annie! It was great to see her up there. Great also to see another Irish star, Simon Delaney up there as one of The Judges. It is of course wonderful to see Erica Gimpel from the Kids From Fame series on the panel for the live shows! Robert C.Kelly skillfully casts his Theatre Producer's eye over the whole proceedings.
The series also has a fantastic Musical Director in David Hayes. I doubt very much that he would remember helping Heartbeat (and The Wah-Wahs!!) all those years ago!
Oh, how it all comes full circle!
Myself and WiiBoy wangled ourselves a couple of comps for last Sunday's live show and we took ourselves, and a pal of mine, along to The Helix, in Dublin to be entertained!
It was great! I could feel the excitement and nervous tension in the air..... I wondered how they were all feeling before they went on. No doubt they were just dying to get out there and do it! The set was fabulous and the performances were mostly fantastic. The boys were stronger, overall, than the girls I felt. Holly and Sean stood out for me. Holly because she was first on and totally nailed it in looks, moves and overall talent. Sean....well, I just like Sean, he has a great attitude and he is so hungry for this. He did a great job on his song but his song choice wasn't as lively or as catchy as the others. Like Simon Delaney, I too like the fact that he has come up through the amateur ranks. There were a few dodgy notes from some nervous performers, wonderful choreography and a big shock-horror moment at the end when the presenter announced the wrong person as being safe!! But hey...that's a live show for ya folks! Apparently the votes come flying in at the end and it can be total bedlam in the truck outside.
WiiBoy particularly enjoyed it...... it's better live, mum! He was highly amused watching the camera man run around the performers on stage to get the close up shots!
We were highly entertained I must say and would love to go see it again.
So, I was rather annoyed to hear Ray Foley over at Today FM make a joke out of the whole show on his radio programme the next day. The following day he referenced it again saying ".... be better than that Fame nonsense". He also derided the voting process "..the public vote...then who gets the final say? The judges.... what's the point?!!"
The point is that while it's wonderful involving the public in such an interactive way (and the phone calls help pay the bills...well, Fame costs ya know!) the Judges really have to have an input to ensure that some wonderful talent doesn't slip away just because they didn't canvass for votes effectively. The public are involved in the voting because it's a highly successful format used elsewhere. They are putting on a professional production as an end result of this process. They must have an input.
Now, like I said, I know these type of shows aren't everybody's cup of tea but RTE/Shinawil have got it right this time. I have not always liked RTE's previous attempts. I particularly disliked the All Ireland Talent Show ( an RTE/Tyrone Productions collaboration) with it's geographical adaptation of the Britain's Got Talent format. However, I passionately believe in providing outlets for the abounding entertainment talent in this country. Well done RTE/Shinawil on this production.
Ray Foley ain't my cup of Barry's Gold Label either but I simply just turn that dial whenever he comes on! Nothing personal. Meteor Award winning DJ, who's listener-ship has increased by 6000 whilst others have dropped, he may well be, but I just don't like his presenting style. I do of course appreciate that he has a talent that others clearly enjoy.
His flippant treatment of these kind of shows annoyed me though.
This Fame show showcases Irish talent and gives the performers a chance that they wouldn't normally get. Even if they don't win it's a fantastic learning opportunity and can be rather helpful on any future CV. Irish talent deserves to be showcased. These are talented boys and girls and they deserve their chance to shine and to achieve their dreams, and in so doing they entertain us....... and provide jobs.
There's a recession on Ray, many people are unemployed in this country. This 10 week production (excluding pre-show preparations/auditions) is providing lots of jobs for lots of people. It's keeping people in The Helix, RTE and Shinawil in employment. Increased ticket and merchandise sales provide even more jobs. This show and it's like may even help keep Irish talent in Ireland! There are precious few jobs in Irish performing arts as it is so we should applaud any innovative measures to provide more.
It is so easy for a radio presenter, who has already attained professional status, to knock others trying to attain the same level in what is effectively a different branch of the same industry.
I wish all the contestants well. Not only in this competition but in their future careers. I hope this process is a giant stepping stone for them in the world of Musical Theatre, which is very much alive and kicking in this country...... and always will be. Whether or not a certain DJ appreciates this branch of the entertainment industry.
Rather than dwell on the begrudgery of this presenter, and any other like-minded individuals, they should look at the people around them and take comfort in the fact that some of them rose through the Musical Theatre ranks in this country to be where they are today. And they should also take comfort in the fact that Ray Foley himself got a helping hand in his rise to fame from fellow professional Tony Fenton! How, I hear you ask? Well, as it happens Tony Fenton had a kind of DJ talent show..... which allowed Ray to showcase HIS talent by being DJ for a Day!!
I rest my case.
So, keep working at it guys and gals.....and ignore the naysayers. They know not what they say.
I will now leave you with the title song from Fame the movie....... the updated one.
Because I kinda like updated and quirky ;-)