A FORMER cast member of hit 1980s TV show 'Fame' thinks Ireland can produce new musical stars. Erica Gimpel, who played 'Coco' in the original series, will be back on our screens soon.
She was in Dublin yesterday to launch RTE's biggest talent search yet. Ms Gimpel (46) is one of the star judges in the station's new 10-week series, 'Fame The Musical'.
The actress said RTE had approached her to be a judge on the show after tracking her down via Facebook.
"I only reluctantly joined Facebook a few months ago and one of the first messages I got was from Ireland, asking if I would be interested in being a judge on this TV show," she said.
Ms Gimpel, who was the only cast member of the TV show to have attended the real High School of Performing Arts in New York, said she believed programme makers would have no trouble finding the same sort of handsome teenagers to audition in Ireland as had featured in the US series.
"There's a unique beauty to each culture and country and I see it here in Ireland.
"What could be more difficult is seeing if those performers are fit enough to sing, dance and act," she said.
The executive producer of the new show, Larry Bass of Screentime ShinAwil, said the difference between this and previous talent shows is that the winners will then embark on a nationwide tour with the West End show.
"We did 'You're A Star' for six years on RTE and it was very hard for the winner to build a career on it," he said.
"In this series, we will have two winners, a boy and a girl, who will immediately walk into a career as leads in a professional musical. In this business, that's a very significant step on the career ladder."
'Fame' started life as a feature film in 1980. It was later turned into a popular TV series, running from 1982 to 1987.
This led on to 'Fame The Musical', a touring stage production, which has so far been seen by four million people worldwide.
Auditions for the RTE show are due to take place in Dublin, Cork and the heart of London's West End.
After the auditions, successful candidates will attend an intensive workshop. Later, the performers selected by the judges will battle it out over eight weeks, live on TV from the Helix in Dublin.
Steve Carson, director of programmes with RTE television, said: "Not only does 'Fame The Musical' provide a platform for emerging talent, but it also creates a real career opportunity for the winners."
The other judges for the series, which will air on Sunday nights after the current series of the All Ireland Talent Show ends, are Bachelors Walk actor Simon Delaney and producer Robert C Kelly.