Students aim for Broadway in musical with true-life focus

| Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2011

Two college students are hoping to take a giant leap toward their futures in theater with the local premiere of an original production.

David Mahokey of Dunbar, a senior at Point Park University, and Greg Kerestan of Greensburg, a senior at Seton Hill University, wrote the 20-song score and script, respectively, for "In Control," a musical that focuses in part on Mahokey's real-life battle with bone cancer.

Two free performances of "In Control," directed by Anthony Marino, artistic director of Stage Right School for the Performing Arts and Professional Theatre Company, will be staged on Friday and Saturday at Greensburg Garden and Civic Center. Mahokey and Kerestan are 2008 graduates of the Stage Right program.

"In Control" features a full cast, composed mainly of Stage Right graduates in major roles and current students in the ensemble. Renata Marino, choreographer at Stage Right, portrays the doctor of lead character Steve.

Kerestan says their play deals with "very serious, very dark subject matter. The plot is fiction, but the experiences a cancer patient goes through are true."

Mahokey says he had his last chemotherapy treatment in October 2004.

"I went through a lot," he says. "I'm doing good now."

Because of his illness, he still wears a brace on his leg, Anthony Marino says, which serves as "a reminder to him and all of us, of how narrow the escape is for those who call themselves cancer survivors."

Marino says the students are talented, and he and the Stage Right staff are extremely proud of both of them.

"David was in one of the first pro shows we did, 'Peter Pan,' then, he went through his bout with cancer, and we feared we might never see him again. Then, he came back and, from that point forward, was a permanent part of the Stage Right family. Right away, it was obvious he was a special kid -- talented and matured from his illness, but never bitter or anything less than perfect."

As for Kerestan, Marino calls him "one of the brightest kids we've ever had at Stage Right -- absolutely brilliant. I love talking theater and entertainment and big ideas with Greg. His creativity seems limitless. His humor and sensibilities are all through this work."

The idea for the musical originated with a one-man autobiographical piece that Mahokey prepared in college. The two young men, who have been friends since preschool, took on the nearly two-year project of creating a musical from Mahokey's concept.

"In the beginning, we performed it as entertainment as parties. People went crazy for it," Mahokey says.

After the show debuts in front of the hometown audience, the playwrights plan to regroup, make any revisions, and take it as far as it will go, including a new works festival, where "hopefully, a producer will see it, like it and take it to New York," Mahokey says.

The two admit they have butterflies about the musical's premiere.

"I usually don't get too nervous, but this is different," Mahokey says.

"It's like seeing your kid score a touchdown at the Super Bowl on TV," Kerestan says. "It's like a dream come true."

Additional Information:

At a glance

'In Control'

When: 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday

Admission: $10

Where: Greensburg Garden and Civic Center, 951 Old Salem Road, Greensburg

Details: 724-832-7464 or online

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