Debbie Allen, the renowned actress, dancer, choreographer and director, acknowledges that "Fame," which opens with a special two-hour installment Wednesday, will be directly compared to "American Idol." Allen appeared in the 1980 movie musical "Fame" as well as the 1980s TV series that was set at the La Guardia High School of Music and Art and Performing Arts in New York. What sets this show apart from those predecessors is that this features real aspiring performers, and it differs from other talent shows, she says, because she is looking for someone who can sing and dance.
Each candidate will perform a routine in front of celebrity judges. But as with "American Idol," viewers will be the final judges.
Allen says she's a natural for this series; she has found and developed young talent for many years.
"I started the Debbie Allen Dance Academy three years ago [in Culver City], and we have taken off big time," she says.
"The whole town is very aware of the Debbie Allen Dance Academy, our production of 'Pearl' and all of those gifted young people I had on the stage. And then people are aware that I am the artist-in-residence at the Kennedy Center for the last 10 years."
Tryouts for "Fame" were held in Miami, New York, Chicago and Los Angeles. Though contestants were suppose to be at least 16, Allen says a few 15-year-olds "came in and shook it up."
Others, Allen notes, were more timid. "There were times I had to pull people out. People would clam up and get petrified. I asked everyone to prepare something that would show me everything. Some people would actually dance really well, but they were shy to do both.
"So this is going to be a really wonderful opportunity and challenge for us to prepare them."
The winner, she says, will get a recording contract and representation by a major company. "They will get an apartment and a car. They will have a year to train here at DADA. That has to be a major component because you just can't put somebody out there. They have to continue to be developed. We want to train them to be ready for the world."