The Edinburgh University Footlights are known for their upscale musical theatre productions with impressive dances and dynamic vocals. What better choice for their highly anticipated annual production than Fame, the 80s classic about students at a performing arts high school in New York City, inspired by the real-life LaGuardia High School which helped the likes of Nicki Minaj to catapult their careers into stardom. The Student sat with choreographer Caili Crow and producer James Hart and ask them what to look forward to on opening night Tuesday 5 February at the Church Hill Theatre.
Fame promises to buzz with that “vibrant” 80s energy that radiates throughout the soundtrack. The Footlights production seeks to imbibe it with what Crow describes as “that urban 80s New York” feel, injecting the grittiness of the city that sometimes feels lost in the glossy tourist haven of NYC today. For Hart, the highlight of the rehearsal process has been without a doubt the development of the musical numbers. “It’s such a fabulous show,” he states, “the musical numbers really pop. Vocally, the cast are just exceptional, and I think being able to sit and watch from the initial stage where Caili’s teaching her choreography, and to be able to see the development from that first rehearsal to this one is just so amazing.”
Crow’s choreography is laced with the authenticity of personal experience; she attended a performing arts high school in the United States. Crow states that she was able to “draw upon [her] own experiences” throughout the choreography process. “I did musical theatre and dance, so [I tried] to take the styles that we did at a dance school and incorporate that in,” she explains. Indeed, she would agree that the show is fairly accurate to the real-life performing arts school experience, although “of course it’s never as dramatic as it is in a musical.”
Most importantly, the messages woven throughout the classic Fame story have become even more relevant in today’s youth culture, where television and the rise of social media bring the quest for celebrity to the student population. Everyone has that one friend whose aspiring food Instagram account or meme page has brought them some modicum of internet fame. Hart states it is a warning, “the whole message… is this striving for celebrity and doing everything you can to become famous. I think that’s such a big issue today, especially with reality TV, people just want to be famous for the sake of it. In this show, they all share this collective dream of being famous, and for some of them it’s a real respect of their craft, but for some of them it’s just fame for fame’s sake.”
What else can we take away from Fame? Crow wants students to recognise “that age-old problem of trying to live too fast. Take hold of being young while you can.”
Image: Andrew Perry