Remember my name, Fame; I’m gonna live forever; I’m gonna learn how to fly, high; I feel it coming together; People will see me and cry.
In the spirit of the hugely popular 1980s MGM/United Artist film, television series and musical Fame, Namarina ballet and jazz school presents Talking Toes, the musical, which opened on Friday and will run until Sunday.
It is refreshing to see a production that is unpretentious — one that knows exactly what its limitations are, plays its strengths to the maximum and is not afraid to ask for help in areas it has no expertise in.
This is exactly the case with Talking Toes, a production that blends song, dance and drama, of which Namarina can boast expertise in only one area: dance.
But to polish up the show, the school’s artistic director, Maya Tamara Sianturi, did not hesitate to employ Teater Koma’s Joshua Pandelaki as acting director and recruit young arranger Ferdy Tumakaka for the music.
The result is immediately evident, a toe-tapping, finger-snapping production that’s fun to watch and one that will make you wonder why you ever gave up ballet all those years ago.
As with Fame, Talking Toes takes place in a performing arts school, the Namarina Performing Arts High School, where three major courses are taught — Dance, Drama and Music. It is the story about the lives of the school’s students, each striving to become a star.
The first scene shows enrollment day. In tune with the song Pray I Make PA, hopeful teenagers audition for a place in the school and are selected by three of the school’s masters — dance teacher Ms. French (Lisa Samadikun), music teacher Ms. Jackson (Arsidianti Boediono) and drama teacher Ms. Monroe (Thessa Kaunang).
As school commences, leading students from each class emerge — Frank (Raymond van Heije) and Anabella (Agatha Pritania Tajuw) in the music class, Christopher “”CJ”" Johnson (Anthony Alexander) and Sissy (Shintia Novita/Rialita Wijaya) in the dancing class, and John Jones (Ai Syarif), Bill William (Edo/Lucas Welfried) and Daisy (Triesca Ariesandy/Enrinia Tanod) in the drama class.
Each student encounters problems, with the most prominent represented by CJ’s love for dancing and nothing else. This soon gets him into trouble with Ms. Jackson.
The acting, though, is nothing to speak of, neither is the English used in the production, which sounds strained and artificial.
“”We wanted our students to go global, the English language is one way and our students needed the training,”" Maya said.
The characters of Talking Toes are shallow, their problems undeveloped and unresolved. Many of the side-plots are left hanging, like Ms. Jackson’s ailing husband, a problem which disrupts her teaching, and the conflict between her and CJ.
But Namarina knows exactly what it’s good at, and the number of song and dance scenes in the production very well makes up for the lame storyline. The problem, of course, makes the scenes of the other two classes, drama and music, boring.
One of the more humorous scenes in the production is during the Romeo and Juliet practice scene involving drama students John Jones, Bill William and Daisy. At first, talented Bill is partnered with Daisy for the part, and all goes great until he has to kiss Juliet.
“”I am more comfortable playing Juliet,”" he says coyly, to the laughter of the audience and the players themselves.
But when Bill is replaced with John, Romeo and Juliet’s kissing scene becomes real, much to the dismay of Bill.
The accompanying music is also surprisingly good, considering Ferdy Tumakaka’s 17 years.
“”The songs are taken from Fame the musical and movie. I tried to rearrange them to a more modern taste and not so 80s in ambience,”" the young arranger said. The result, a fresh mix of rap, jazz, pop, hip-hop, rock, blues and samba.