‘Fame’ Touches O.C. Actors


Michael Rose had fantasized about a star’s life since he was young enough to know what one was. Instead of enrolling at a regular campus, he joined the Orange County High School of the Arts in Los Alamitos and worked at stagecraft, often wondering about his first break.

Sound familiar? It’s a typical story for show-biz hopefuls and, more to the point, the central theme of “Fame,” which has been a movie and TV series before this latest incarnation.

Rose, a longtime Mission Viejo resident who now lives in Seal Beach, got his break when he was picked more than a year ago to play Rudy in a touring production of “Fame--The Musical.” The show that was created by David De Silva, Jose Fernandez, Jacques Levy and Steve Margoshes arrives at the Orange County Performing Arts Center in Costa Mesa on Dec. 21 and will stay through Jan. 2.


“This was something I wanted to do for years,” Rose said during a recent telephone interview from his hotel in Palm Desert, one of the musical’s recent stops. “All that time [at the Orange County High School of the Arts] learning dance and everything else helped bring me here.

“That was a lot of hard work [and that] is one of the mottoes of ‘Fame,’ that if you work hard you can get somewhere.”

The Orange County connection only begins with Rose, who is 21. Deanna Aguinaga, Regina Le Vert and Michelle Aguilar Camaya either grew up or studied in the area before landing roles with “Fame--The Musical.”

Camaya, 22, attended UCI for three years, mostly studying dance. She was preparing for her senior year when her agent told her about auditions for the musical in Los Angeles. Despite arriving late because of snarled traffic, Camaya got a spot in the ensemble when she persuaded the choreographer to check out her moves.

“Because I got there [after the auditions were finished] I was just going to watch, maybe to learn about the process,” she said, also by telephone from Palm Desert. “But then I saw what they were doing and I said, ‘OK, you can do this.’ I got a call from New York not much later and in November [of 1998] I was performing in Toronto,” the show’s first stop.

Camaya is one of the few original cast members with the tour since the beginning (Rose also has that distinction), playing Sweeney. Like Rose’s, the role is small, with Camaya mostly participating in group scenes. But Sweeney, whom Camaya describes as “kind of timid but very excited, with glasses and a tie-dyed romper,” does have a dance solo.


“Of course, that’s one of my favorite parts,” Camaya said, laughing.

Rose characterized Rudy as “very focused, but he learns how to have fun,” something that Rose also learned at Orange County High School of the Arts along with working hard.

His three years there were spent polishing his dancing, singing, acting and comedy skills and “building one’s confidence.” The environment was not unlike that of New York City’s High School of the Performing Arts, which is the musical’s setting.

Camaya agreed, noting that she went to a high school for the performing arts in San Diego before attending UC Irvine. The camaraderie and instruction at UCI remind her of the world created onstage for the touring show, which follows seven members of the final class of the Manhattan school as they aspire in life and onstage.

“ ‘Fame’ relates to my time [at UCI] and now,” Camaya said. “What I learned from UCI [and the show] is to be patient. If you want to pursue any art, be sure to polish your skills. You have to make that decision and stick to it or it becomes self-destructive.”

Both Rose and Camaya are fans of the “Fame” movie and TV series, and especially the signature number that won the Academy Award for best song in 1980. They studied the movie and television episodes to help get a feel for the musical.

“I always knew the ‘Fame’ songs because we’d sing them in classes,” Camaya said. “It was all very familiar to me.”


The run at the Orange County Performing Arts Center will have significance for Rose, Camaya and the others, if only because they expect friends and family in the audience.

“I’m just so excited and have been waiting for this for months,” Rose said. “I remember going to the center to see shows. I saw ‘Cats’ there when I was young and never thought that I’d be performing there.

“It’s weird in a way. I was born in Garden Grove, and it’s 10 minutes away from the house I lived in. I really can’t wait.”

Huntington Woman Lands One-Night Role

Nicole Lamothe never went on tour but she’ll also be part of “Fame--The Musical,” in a small way. The 18-year-old from Huntington Beach was picked during a recent audition to find a local performer to appear in an unnamed ensemble role for one show, Dec. 23.

“They told me I would know what to do the day of the event,” Lamothe said. “I really don’t know what I’ll be doing or what my character will be. But they said I’ll be up there in my ‘80s outfit, looking cute. I think there’s a library scene I’m going to be in.”

If that sounds vague, it was even vaguer to Lamothe shortly after she was picked. Lamothe, although lacking big-time stage experience, thought her role might be much larger. In fact, the largest.


The audition went so well, Lamothe believed she “was going to be singing that lead song. When I found out I was going to be part of the ensemble, it was a ‘darn it!’ kind of thing, but then I got excited just knowing I was going to be in it.”

Like the others, Lamothe hopes this can be the start of something better. So far, her singing has mostly been with choral groups at Edison High in Huntington Beach and church choirs and performing the national anthem at sporting events. But she’s looking beyond all that.

“I want to be the next Celine Dion,” she said. “This is my dream, ever since I was a little girl, to perform for the whole world.”


“Fame--The Musical” will be at the Orange County Performing Arts Center Dec. 21-Jan. 2. Show times at 8 p.m., Dec. 21, 22, 23, 25, 28, 29, 30 and Jan. 1 and 2; 2 p.m., Dec. 23 and 24 and Jan. 1 and 2; 7:30 p.m., Dec. 26 and Jan. 2. $18-$42. (714) 556-ARTS. The center is at 600 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa.