The Central Academy of Drama requested help from Broadway to stage the first Western musical in Chinese in 2008, and the Academy's American partners suggested Fame the Musical due to the story's relevance to the Chinese students. The majority of the funding came from the state, and the show, China's first official co-production with Broadway, was co-produced with Nederlander Worldwide Entertainment and Phoenix Entertainment.
"'The Road to Fame' tells a unique story of coming-of-age with Chinese characteristics," press notes state. "The film chronicles the staging of the American musical Fame — China's first official collaboration with Broadway — by the senior class at China's top drama academy as their graduation showcase. During the eight-month process, five students compete for roles, struggle with pressure from family and authority, and prepare to graduate into a cutthroat and corrupt show business. Part of China's Single-Child generation, they have been spoiled growing up but are now obliged to carry on the failed dreams of their parents. They must confront complex social realities and their own anxieties, and, in the process of staging Fame, negotiate their own paths to the 'Chinese dream.'"
The film, directed by Hao Wu, explores how China's nationwide One-Child policy has resulted in families spoiling their offspring — and how the offspring feel intense pressure to succeed, despite economic uncertainty following the government phasing out the planned-economy policy of assigning jobs to college graduates.
"For the senior students at the Academy, China's show business appears ruthlessly competitive, mercenary and corrupt," press notes state. "Meanwhile, they are under tremendous pressure from their parents to succeed. The parents have invested much of their financial resources and their own failed dreams in their only children. Filial piety and family honor therefore constrain the kids' capability to dream for themselves."
"With 'The Road to Fame,' I started out making a film about how the cultural idea of fame would transform when Fame, a quintessential story about the 'American dream,' was produced in China at China's own Fame school," Wu said in a statement. "As filming went on, however, my interest and focus gradually shifted to the Single-Child generation and their 'Chinese dream.'" The musical film "Fame," which was released in 1980, was set in a high school for performing arts in New York and chronicled the personal and professional lives and struggles of its students. The film inspired a TV spin-off and a musical adaptation. A film remake, starring Kelsey Grammer, Megan Mullally, Bebe Neuwirth and Debbie Allen, was released in 2009.
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