‘Fame’ Stars Want To ‘Set The Standard’ For Musicals

Kherington Payne, Paul Iacono, others explain what sets their high school musical apart.

By now, you’ve probably seen the adrenaline-fueled music video for the title track of “Fame.” This weekend, you can head to a movie theater near you and watch the 1980 sensation about students at a New York performing-arts high school get a modern-day facelift on the big-screen.

But first, the cast and crew were happy to act like choreographers when we caught up with them recently, breaking down the routines they employed to reinterpret a classic for a new generation.

High School Musical 4?
If you still find yourself mourning the loss of Troy, Sharpay, Gabriella and your other favorite students from East High, have no fear — the cast of “Fame” are quick to point out that although their characters’ big-city dreams might be a bit grittier, their adventures will appeal to “HSM” fans and maybe even take things to the next level. “This is going to set the standard for the modern-day musical,” explained Paul Iacono, one of the film’s young stars. “And we’re very aware of that.”

Old-School Meets New-School
There’s a reason why people still remember the original “Fame” movie, its soundtrack, and the TV spinoff some 30 years later. And while stars like Kherington Payne are eager to put their own slant on the rags-to-riches stories that fuel the franchise, they’re being careful to not stray too far. “Whenever I say, ‘Oh, we did a remake of “Fame,” ‘ people are like, ‘We love “Fame”!’ It’s very exciting to have people that already know what it’s about,” explained Payne, who is making her film debut after her moves on “So You Think You Can Dance” turned heads. “So, this is similar; it’s the same basis of these kids going through a lot to reach fame. Different stories, different characters, the songs are different. But there’s a little remix of ‘Fame’ going on, and it’s kind of 50/50.”

The All-Singing, All-Dancing Cast
We’ve seen plenty of films that use movie magic to work around a stars’ inability to sing or dance, but when director Kevin Tancharoen set out to find his “Fame” stars, he insisted that they audition only actors who could bring it on all fronts. “The cast was a challenge to find, I have to say, because we wanted kids to do a lot,” explained the filmmaker. “We asked them to basically sing, dance, and we needed them to act very well — because there are story points and a lot of dramatic moments in the movie they had to portray. So, we auditioned everywhere: New York, L.A., even in Europe; we also utilized online, to have kids send in their videos and show us what they’ve got. We auditioned thousands and thousands, and ended up with what I think is the best 10 that we could have ever asked for. They literally can do it all; they can do all the performance numbers, but it doesn’t sacrifice the acting ability at all. It was a really, really rare find; it’s really hard to find those people. But we found them, and I thought they were all fantastic.”

Speaking the Truth
Unlike many musicals set in distant places or times, “Fame” has always been a tale about aspiring stars trying to make a name for themselves in the dog-eat-dog world. It’s no surprise, then, that the stars found it easy to connect with their characters. “I really had to struggle and fight my way in [to this business], so I really relate to Malik in that way,” Collins Pennie said of his role. “This business is never easy. Pursuing singing, dancing or acting, sometimes you get told you’re not going to make it, sometimes it’s rough. And you don’t get to see that a lot on TV or in movies.”

Check out everything we’ve got on “Fame.”

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