Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Fame 4 at Fuel Rock Out!

Seeking It Out In Studio City

By Jesse Schmitt

We all, somewhere down deep in our heart of hearts, want to be famous. It’s intrinsic; it’s the way we’re brought up, it’s part of that dreaded envy/expectation gene which is split to believe that not only do we want what we see that others have, but that somehow, we’re entitled to it.

So it goes that one of the biggest proponents of this high style of envy is American Idol. Many people watch it; many people enjoy it; a surprisingly larger number of people strive to participate in this contest/slaughterhouse. In the end it turns into a contest; in the beginning though it is just like a bunch of pigs led to slaughter as the large majority of those who all have a singular goal on their minds are shown the door rather than the glitz and glam of the camera and the limelight of the stage.

It was with this in mind that my wife and I attended the most recent production of “Fame 4” at the bar Fuel (11608 Ventura Blvd) in Studio City. “Fame” we’ll all remember, was a 1980 movie which was thus adapted into a musical; along the way it was a television series and a reality TV program before “reality TV” had entered the public lexicon. Any child of the 1980’s no doubt was up early Saturday morning, dancing around their living room in their Pac-Man pajama’s singing “Fame! I’m gonna’ live forever” softly, so as not to awaken the parents. The fact that I lived next to the Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music and Performing Arts for four years should not be lost on this reading audience; the fact is that even thought the program had been off the air for years, I thought it was a little endearing that there had been the actual dream coming to life on my street – just across the street, coincidently (and just to the rear of my building) from what I’d affectionately dubbed the “Lincoln Center Projects;” the vast public housing units were what made the whole thing real. A reference is mentioned to the area by Jason Mraz in his song “Curbside Prophet:” (“You see it started way back in NYC; When I stole my first rhyme from the M-I-C; At a West End Avenue at 63”).

Back to the subject at hand, though; we had attended this “Fame 4” spectacular hoping to just get an idea for what was going on. In the world of performance, there are definitely some who belong and some who maybe not so much. I won’t get into any specifics on any of the individual performers just because I wasn’t jotting down names; I will say though that performance is really all about interpretation.

I have a very extensive music collection and a fairly diverse knowledge of pop music popularity and history; Phil Collins, John Cougar Mellencamp, Michael Stipe, Elvis (!) all stood shoulder to shoulder with Lisa Loeb, Linda Rondstat, Nena, and musical theatre in the invocations of these folks. The truly refreshing thing about this experience was that I was able to hear the individual performer’s voice despite the fact that these were very popular tunes (I know you know ”99 Luftballoons”)

I can sometimes be a stickler for the details and I found myself sitting right to the front, more interested in the screen which displayed the words and the subtle differences in the recorded versions of these songs and the karaoke versions. I spoil things for myself sometimes by being such a cad, but I have the non-alcoholic hangover headache today as my reward.

An enjoyable time was had by all. I must say, in complete deference to all the rest of the performers, my wife had to be the best one I’d heard all night. That is with no implicit bias whatsoever.

“Fame 4” goes on for the next several weeks or so in Studio City CA so if you are out on the town and are looking for something a little bit different, why not head on over to Fuel on Ventura Blvd?

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