- The Washington Times - Friday, May 16, 2003

Fair warning: This is one of those life imitates art imitating life things. On “American Dreams,” an NBC family drama (Sundays at 8 p.m.) set in Philadelphia in the ‘60s, Brittany Snow plays 15-year-old Meg Pryor, a regular dancer on Dick Clark’s pioneering pop music show “American Bandstand,” which was based in Philadelphia before moving to the West Coast.

Now, Miss Snow, a 17-year-old actor, is making her musical debut singing backing vocals on the soundtrack album for the television series. On “American Dreams Original Soundtrack: 1963-1964,” Miss Snow and Vanessa Lengies (Roxanne Bojarski on the series) accompany pop singer Stacie Orrico on a cover of the ‘60s girl-group smash “My Boyfriend’s Back.” The CD was released last week by NBC Enterprises and Hip-O Records.

“It was really fun to finally be in a studio,” Miss Snow says. “It’s always been something I’ve been interested in … Vanessa was there with me. It was cool we got to share the same experience together. We had a blast, goofing off, pretending we were important superstars.”

Each week on “American Dreams,” current pop music stars play real-life pop stars of the ‘60s appearing on “Bandstand.” Vintage television footage from the actual “Bandstand” is spliced with new scenes filmed on a stage that is an exact replica of the one from the 1960s. On tomorrow night’s episode, Miss Orrico guest stars as Peggy Santiglia of the Angels singing “My Boyfriend’s Back.”

So what if it’s a cross-marketer’s dream? It’s a unique hook, and it works.

To up the synergistic ante still further, Mr. Clark himself, the ageless wonder of emcee-dom, is one of the executive producers of “Dreams.”

The series attempts to evoke, through the medium of the suburban Pryor family, the cultural turbulence that was to buffet the more innocent America of the early ‘60s. In tomorrow night’s season finale, the Pryors find themselves in the middle of rioting in Philadelphia.

“There are so many TV shows out there that are good, but ‘American Dreams’ really connects with a lot of people and especially connects with me,” Miss Snow says. “I’m so honored to be part of something that’s putting such a good message out there and deals with really hard-core issues that were relevant back then.”

Miss Orrico, who appears on tomorrow night’s episode, is best known for her hit song “Stuck,” now a popular choice on MTV’s “Total Request Live.”

“I had to learn the dance moves and sing the way [Miss Santiglia] did and make her facial expressions,” she says. “It was my first acting thing … but it was pretty much about the music which is why I’d actually chosen to do it.”

Miss Orrico says she also enjoyed turning back the clock to another decade.

“Selling records back in that time was a little bit more of a novelty than it is now,” she says. “In a lot of ways music has become better, but I’ll always love the music that came out when it was just about the music. There was no ProTools (computer-aided recording). There was no fixing it up. You just sang and hoped you did a good job.”

Danny Pelfrey, who scores the series, also produced “American Dreams Original Soundtrack: 1963-1964.” The project includes remakes of various hits from the 1960s, including India.Arie’s cover of Nina Simone’s “Come Ye” and Vanessa Carlton’s cover of the Dusty Springfield’s hit “Wishin’ and Hopin’.”

The album also features vintage tracks by the original artists, such as Simon & Garfunkel’s “The Sounds of Silence,” and the Impressions’ stirring “People Get Ready.”

“We did an archaeological dig, if you will, sonically,” Mr. Pelfrey says. “When recording the new tracks, we were trying to remain faithful to the original recordings and the production styles and arrangements.”

To accomplish this, Mr. Pelfrey used old microphones and a live chamber to simulate the sound texture that was produced by the technology available in the 1960s.

Although the recording technology may not have been as advanced as it is today, Mr. Pelfrey says the passion of the decade has never been replicated.

“It was an era of great creativity,” he says. “There was a tremendous awakening after the ‘50s. The music that was created was just a reflection of the times.”

Looking back on the songs from the 1960s is like a history lesson, says Miss Lengies. “There is nothing like standing up in a huge crowd of wild teenagers listening to music that moved a generation,” Miss Lengies says.


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