Main > Series > Articles/Interviews > The Complete Directory to Prime Time TV Shows 1946-Present: Fame, Drama

Show Description: New York City's renowned High School for the Performing Arts was the setting for this series about the hopes and aspirations of a group of students planning to become singers, dancers, actors, musicians, and comedians. Geared specifically to provide a curriculum that would prepare its graduates for careers in show business, the School for the Performing Arts attracted a student body with tremendous talent, energy, and ambition. It was there that they learned to deal with competition and rejection, as well as the problems of growing up. Among the featured students were Bruno, a talented, but somewhat arrogant keyboard artist and composer; Coco - a singer/dancer driven to succeed and in a rush to get into the professional world; Danny, a bright comedian who would break into a monologue at the drop of a hat; Doris, an actress-writer-comedienne whose easy-going manner belied an ego as strong and determined as anyone's; Leroy, a talented dancer from the ghettos of New York, who graduated and became an assistant dance instructor at the school himself; Montgomery, trying to follow in the path of his successful actress mother; and Julie, the outsider from Grand Rapids, Michigan, who was an accomplished cellist adjusting both to the school and the high-energy environment of New York. If anything, the faculty was even more dedicated than the students, with hard-driving, beautiful dance teacher Lydia Grant the most prominent. Other teachers included Mr. Shorofsky, the bearded music teacher; Mr. Crandall, the drama instructor; and English teacher Elizabeth Sherwood. FAME was an immediate hit with the critics. They lauded its talented cast of young performers, the well-choreographed production numbers, and its realistic portrayal of the problems of growing up in contemporary society. Unfortunately it attracted a small audience, and after a year and a half on NBC it was finally canceled in the spring of 1983. Undaunted, the producers continued production of new episodes and sold them on a syndicated basis to local stations, which generally aired them on Saturday or Sunday in the early evening. There were changes in the cast. David Reardon replaced Mr. Crandall (Michael Thoma had died) as drama teacher (later replaced by Paul Seeger); Mrs. Berg, the scatterbrained school secretary, became a regular; and Quentin Morloch, an officious principal (later replaced by Bob Dyrenforth) who gradually came to understand that this was not an ordinary high school, was added. New students included Dwight, an awkward, fat tuba player; Holly, a vivacious Drama major; Jesse, an hispanic dancer who became Leroy's protégé; Nicole, a beautiful black singer and dancer who was tragically killed in an auto accident; Christopher, a talented but cocky dancer; and Ian, an English guitarist who loved rock music. In later years Lou's bowling alley/restaurant became a regular hangout for the students. FAME was based on the movie of the same name, with a number of its cast members - Debbie Allen, Albert Hague, Gene Anthony Ray, and Lee Curreri - reprising their roles in the series.

Cast: Lydia Grant - Debbie Allen; Coco Hernandez - Erica Gimpel; Danny Amatullo - Carlo Imperato; Bruno Martelli - Lee Curreri; Doris Schwartz - Valerie Lansburg; Leroy Johnson - Gene Anthony Ray; Montgomery MacNeil - P.R. Paul; Elizabeth Sherwood - Carol Mayo Jenkins; Mr. Benjamin Shorofsky - Albert Hague; Julie Miller - Lori Singer; Mr. Crandall - Michael Thoma; Mrs. Charlotte Miller - Judy Farrell; Angelo Martelli - Carmine Caridi; David Reardon - Morgan Stevens; Dwight - David Greenlee; Mrs. Gertrude Berg (Alice Bowman) - Ann Nelson; Holly Laird - Cynthia Gibb; Christopher Donlon - Bill Hufsey; Quentin Morloch - Ken Swofford; Cleo Hewitt - Janet Jackson; Jesse Velasquez - Jesse Borego; Nicole Chapman - Nia Peeples; Mr. Lou Mackie - Dick Miller; Laura Mackie - Carolyn J. Silas; Dusty Tyler - Loretta Chandler; Mr. Bob Dyrenforth - Graham Jarvis; Reggie Higgins - Carrie Hamilton; Kate Riley - Page Hannah; Ian Ware - Michael Cerveris; Jillian Beckett - Elisa Heinsohn; Mr. Paul Seeger - Eric Pierpoint; Maxie - Olivia Barash; Miltie Horowitz - Robert Romanus. Theme: "Fame," written by Michael Gore and Dean Pitchford, and sung by Erica Gimpel."

DEBBIE ALLEN: After debuting on the New York stage in the chorus of "Purlie", a musical version of Ossie Davis' "Purlie Victorious", Ms. Allen became a principal dancer in the Universal Dance Experience, with George Faison. She returned to Broadway in "Raisin", a musical adaptation of Lorraine Hansberry's "A Raisin in the Sun". Ms Allen made her television debut on "Good Times" in 1975, the same year she appeared in the movie "Fame"; she subsequently worked as actor, choreographer and director for the popular television series of the same name. For her exceptional work on "Fame", Ms. Allen received two Emmy Awards, as well as a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress in a Television Series. Returning to Broadway in 1979, Ms. Allen received a Tony nomination for the revival of "West Side Story". After a record-breaking Broadway run as "Sweet Charity", for which she received her second Tony nomination (1986-87), Allen choreographed the new American musical "Carrie", with the Royal Shakespeare Company. In 1988, Ms. Allen took over the reins of NBC's "A Different World", as both director and producer. For her sensitive approach to the presentation of critical social issues on this popular series, she was awarded the first Responsibility in Television Award from the L.A. Film Teachers Association. That same year, Ms. Allen received two Emmy nominations for directing and choreographing "The Debbie Allen Special". In 1989, Ms. Allen received another Emmy nomination for her choreographic work on "Polly", a black musical adaptation of Disney's "Pollyanna". Her directorial accomplishments include: "Family Ties", "Bronx Zoo", the 1990 sequel to "Polly", the pilot episode of "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air", "Quantum Leap", (in which she also co-starred), the 1992 made-for-television movie "Stompin a the Savoy", and the play "Wedding Band", produced at UCLA. On the big screen, Allen has appeared in "Jo Jo Dancer" (opposite Richard Pryor), "Your Life if Calling", Milos Forman's "Ragtime" and "The Fish that Saved Pittsburgh". She also directed the feature film "Out of Sync", featuring her "In the House" co-star, L.L. Cool J. In 1991, Ms. Allen received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for achievements in television. In addition to receiving the 1992 Essence Award for her high standards of excellence, Ms. Allen also became the recipient of the first Lena Horne Award for Career Achievement at the Soul Train Lady of Soul Awards. In addition to having choreographed the Academy Awards telecasts for five consecutive years, Ms. Allen is an Executive Committee Member of UCLA's School of Theatre, Film and Television. She also serves on the Board of Directors for both the Library Foundation of Los Angeles and the American Foundation for the Arts.

ALBERT HAGUE (New York Daily News review by David Kaufman): "While most people would recognize Albert Hague as lovable Prof. Shorofsky-the white-haired music teacher in both the film and TV versions of "Fame"-old-time theatergoers knew him much earlier as a composer of Broadway musicals. His "Redhead," which starred Gwen Verdon in 1959, won nine Tony Awards, including best musical and best score. "Young and Foolish," the most popular song from his previous hit, "Plain and Fancy," has lent its name to a charming cabaret act that Hague is currently performing with his wife, Renée Orin. "Still Young and Foolish," with Hague at the piano and Orin up front doing the vocals, shows that these endearing, stalwart pros know how to toss off a song, as well as an anecdote. Hague recounts how, before fleeing to the U.S. in 1939, he grew up in "a tough neighborhood", Nazi Germany. As he explains his initiation in New York, "If you want a losing proposition, you try to sell songs in Tin Pan Alley right after World War II with a German accent." Considering the variety of illustrious people Hague has worked with - including Langston Hughes, Barbara Cook, Dorothy Fields, Bette Davis, Joshua Logan, Bob Fosse and Dr. Seuss -one only wishes he would give us more stores from his 50-year career.

LORI SINGER: Television: VR 5 (1995), Born Beautiful (1982), Sensibility and Sense (1990), Storm and Sorrow (1990); Films: Footloose (1984), The Falcon and the Snowman (1984), Trouble in Mind (1985), The Man With One Red Shoe (1985), Summer Heat (1987) Don Johnson: Heartbeat (1987), Made In USA (1988), Warlock (1989), Equinox (1992), Sunset Grill (1992), Short Cuts (1993), F.T.W aka Last Ride (1994), Bach Cello Suite #4: Sarabande (1997).

This interview was provided to me by Tomothy Newton.

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