New show recreates old times, old hits

By PAT NASON, UPI Hollywood Reporter

LOS ANGELES, Sept. 25 (UPI) -- On the surface, the new NBC drama "American Dreams" -- set in the Philadelphia of Dick Clark's legendary "American Bandstand" TV show -- sounds like a heavy dose of nostalgia, but what producers have in mind is something decidedly more contemporary.

The show centers on a family headed by a conservative-minded dad trying to navigate the cultural and political upheaval of the '60s, but the approach involves much more than recreating the period. Producers -- including executive producer Clark -- will keep one foot planted firmly in the present.


Take the music, for example.

"American Bandstand" provides the soundtrack for the show, and viewers will see occasional black and white archival footage of Clark at his familiar post. However, the show will artfully avoid showing Clark from the front -- while contemporary color footage will show actor Paul D. Roberts playing Clark on a recreated "Bandstand" set.


The new show will depict "Bandstand" performances by Marvin Gaye, Lesley Gore and Jay and the Americans -- but with current pop stars Usher, Michelle Branch and Nick Carter (Backstreet Boys) playing the classic rock musicians.

Carter, as Jay Black of Jay and the Americans, performs the group's 1964 hit "Come a Little Bit Closer." Usher will do Gaye's "Can I Get a Witness?" Branch is scheduled to sing Gore's hit "It's My Party."

Danny Pelfrey, an Emmy-nominated composer-arranger ("Felicity," "Spin City") was originally brought on to compose the score for "American Dreams," and eventually drew the assignment of arranging and producing the musical recreations.

He said his goal was to evoke the period, but with contemporary sensibilities -- to be faithful to the originals, but also to make the final product "acceptable to modern ears."

After listening to the originals as part of his research for the project, Pelfrey said he noticed "echoes" of '60s and '70s recording techniques are still showing up in contemporary records. But he said listeners hear contemporary music in a different way than they did in the '60s, so he has to adjust for that in the projects he produces for "American Dreams."


"These (original) recordings were carefully done and carefully created to create a certain effect," said Pelfrey. "Our job is to recreate that in this modern environment, which is trickier than you might think."

He said he worked with the singers on "American Dreams" to come up with vocal performances that capture "the essence" of the original performance -- and more.

"Since these artists have an audience (in 2002) we want to appeal to them as well," he said. "Everybody knows it's Nick Carter, not Jay, for example, but the recreation has to touch a button."

Branch, Carter and Usher were not even born yet when the songs they're recreating were hits, but Pelfrey said they know the music very well.

"They love this stuff," he said. "Nick was saying he really loves older records."

Pelfrey was nominated for an Emmy for "Felicity." In 2001 he won a Video Premiere Award for best song ("Better Than I") and a nomination for best score for DreamWorks' "Joseph: King of Dreams."

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