Old school meets new school in Fame, starring Naturi Naughton and Debbie Allen.
This ain’t your mama’s (or maybe younger aunt’s) version of the film. This isn’t even the TV series that spun off of the film. This Fame is updated for a whole new generation. Fame, in theaters now, still centers on 10 performing arts students in New York who are trying to make it in their given industries, be it music, dance or acting.
According to Naturi, though, the similarities end there. Writers reinvented the characters and their struggles to fit the world we live in now. If the film didn’t change with the times, then it might have been a little harder for audiences to connect with the stories.
And with new characters and new story lines comes new music and moves.
“We’ve given it a new style of dancing. You know, in the ’80s there was that disco kind of different feel in the music,” Naturi said. ”Now we have a little hip-hop, we have R&B. We even have classical music and Broadway style of music. We’ve tried to kind of gel all of the different styles that young people would love today.”
In Fame, Naturi plays Denise Dupree, a classical pianist who dreams of singing. Her parents aren’t hot about the idea because they have visions of her learning to tickle the ivories at Julliard someday. When faced with decision of choosing her own path or sticking to her parents plan, which one will she stick with?
It’s a predicament that’s different from Naturi’s own journey, but she finds kinship with the characters their daily fight for success.
“I think that these kids, in the Fame school, are struggling to make the cut. They’re constatntly being criticized and told that they’re not good enough,” Naturi explained. “These kids are going through some of the same things that I personally go through just on a day-to-day. Just in auditions, sometimes you thought you did great and why didn’t you get the part?”
But there is one hold over from the original film and TV show: Debbie Allen. Last time around, she played Lydia, but this time’s she’s come back as the principal, Ms. Angela Simms,. When producers approached her about doing Fame, she hardly had to think about accepting the offer.
At one time, Debbie, admittedly, wasn‘t buying that line about “I’m gonna live forever.” Now after doing the film again, she’s changed her tune.
“The story is still so relevant. The dance numbers hold up,” said Debbie. “I think that in its reincarnation it’s a good time. It’s a grittier look at something that people kinda know about.”
While waxing nostalgic about the first Fame, she recalled what an international phenomenon it was, stating that, “Fame became much bigger once we got out of America.” Among the franchise’s overseas fans was the late Princess Diana.
Getting back to the newest addition to the brand, Debbie said she’s confident that people will be lined up to see the 2009 remix of Fame.
“Audiences now love performing arts. They love the dance, they love the music, they love the acting. They love seeing the struggle; they love seeing behind the scenes,” she explained. “It’s kind of what these reality shows are really about.”
One need look no further than the TV listings to see that she’s right. Between “So You Think You Can Dance,” “Dancing With the Stars,” “American Idol,” “America’s Got Talent,” and “America’s Best Dance Crew,” we’re obsessed with the pursuit of fame. Heck the Fame franchise even had it’s own reality show a few years back, and those that watched might remember Shannon Bex, formerly of Danity Kane, competing for the top prize.
– Sonya Eskridge