Arts & Events

Fame High: When Tomorrow's Young Stars Go to Make the Grade--Plays one night: Sunday, November 11, 7:15 PM, Shattuck Theaters

By Gar Smith
Friday November 09, 2012 - 12:19:00 PM
Grace Song takes to the stage.
Carol Little
Grace Song takes to the stage.
Fame High director Scott Hamilton Kennedy.
Fame High director Scott Hamilton Kennedy.

At the Los Angeles County High School for the Arts (LACHSA), "all the school's a stage." A proving ground for over-achievers and multi-taskers, LACHSA challenges a select community of teens to excel academically — researching essays, passing grueling tests — while leading parallel lives, honing their talents as singers, dancers, and actors. And the ground rules are clear: you may play piano like Thelonius Monk, but you aren't going to graduate if you can't make the grade in algebra. 


Directed by Academy Award nominee (and Bay Area filmmaker) Scott Hamilton Kennedy, Fame High follows the inevitable CompDoc formula, focusing on the challenges facing four charismatic individuals as they try to follow in the footsteps of previous LACHSA grads like singer Josh Grobin, actors Jenna Ellman and Corbin Bleu, and Matt Rushing, who is now a principal dancer with Alvin Ailey's American Dance theater. 

The tension begins with the first knuckle-gnawing auditions and, for those lucky enough to gain admission, the tension never lets up. 

Ruby is a red-haired scamp whose actor-dad is right by her side cheering her on and driving her to auditions. 

Zak is an earnest young pianist who suffers under the thumb of his domineering father who is determined to push his son to succeed as a jazz musician—whether he wants it or not. 

Brittany has the blond hair to go with the name but she's tall and long on talent, with a powerful voice and a songwriter's gift. When her drive to gain performing experience at local clubs (the LASHSA version of playing hooky), her mother (who has left the family behind in Wisconsin to support Brittany) is there to apply the reins and pass the Kleenex when emotions burst. 

And, finally, there's Grace Song, a beautiful and nimble young dancer whose strict Korean-American parents demand nothing short of success—and will not accept the idea that their daughter might be longing for a boyfriend. 

The kids are engaging and the stories are compelling. If there is an inherent problem with Fame High, it is simply the growing familiarity of the Compdoc format. After films like Mad Hot Ballroom and last year's First Position, two excellent films that helped define the CompDoc genre, it is no longer a surprise when a filmmaker unveils the latest pack of youngsters bless with enormous talent, laser-like drive, and the occasional soul-crushing abyss of self-doubt. 

Fame High's chosen few do well: Zak overcomes an academic set-back, Ruby is on her way to a stage career, Brittany moves to London to work with Paul McCartney, and Grace fulfills her parent's dream when she is accepted at Julliard School of Dance.