Why 'Fame' Resonates With Audiences 35 Years Later
Updated: Jun 8
For kids of the 1980s, it wasn’t Glee or High School Musical on their playlists, it was the soundtrack to Fame on their record players that defined an entire generation. 35 years later, that same music still resonates for all ages and it’s about to make a comeback at the 35th Anniversary Reunion Concert to benefit The Actors Fund, a national human services organization that helps everyone in performing arts and entertainment in times of need, crisis or transition.
Dance Dish got an exclusive sit-down interview with some of the former film and TV cast members Lee Curreri (Bruno Martelli), Cynthia Gibb (Holly Laird), Erica Gimpel (Coco Hernandez), Valerie Landsburg (Doris Schwartz) and P.R. Paul (Montgomery MacNeil). It was a step back in time to a show that created so many incredible memories not only for the fans, but also for the cast.
“All the people who were kids watching it [back in the ‘80s] are now adults. We all run into people in the industry who are Fame fans, people who you wouldn’t expect and they get gushy,” says Landsburg. “It happens to me all of the time.”
“It’s crazy that 35 years later we are still here and that people care. That’s what is amazing. As you get older, you realize the legs that the show had and how it influenced people,” explains Paul. “You look back and feel proud to have a part of it.”
Gibb joined the syndicated version of the show in Season 3. The show allowed her to take a dramatic turn in her career when her character developed an eating disorder.
“It was my first chance to do dramatic acting and Val was directing the episode. Up until that point, my storylines had been light or funny, so it was scary and challenging,” shares Gibb. “On the other side of it, it was very satisfying. It allowed me to do something outside of my comfort zone.”
Gimpel took on a big challenge by filling the role on the TV show that Irene Cara made famous in the film. She was a junior at the Performing Arts High School in New York — the school that Fame was based on — and she truly had a full-circle moment after working with Debbie Allen.
“I had seen her on Broadway in West Side Story. We did the first season and the song, “I Still Believe In Me” which Debbie choreographed for us,” says Gimpel. “All I could think was this is so surreal.”
It was Allen who gave Gimpel an appreciation for dance history because she was learning Dunham technique, African dance as well as Fosse.
“I busted my ass to get those dance numbers,” laughs Gimpel.
Curreri is a part of one of the most iconic dance scenes ever from the film version, even though he doesn’t dance. His character is the one who creates the music for the theme song “Fame” and he has great memories of the film’s choreographer, Louis Falco.
“The craziness of Louis Falco’s dance is that he did this combination of planned out moves, but it looks like chaos,” reminisces Curreri. “When you watch something, you typically know it is choreographed with specific things going on. He was good at creating this beautiful chaos. I don’t know how often that is done.”
The timelessness of Fame represents not only the ‘80s generation, but also a new generation who has discovered the beauty of the music and the movement thanks to the Ovation channel and YouTube. For the cast, it’s been an incredible journey that has lasted for 35 years.
“It’s rare for something to have a timelessness to it that can go beyond different generations,” sums up Gimpel. “It’s a gift.”
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