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Alle-Kiski Valley high-school musicals: Riverview; Burrell; Plum; Deer Lakes; Ford City

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By Julie Martin

Published: Wednesday, April 3, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Whether it's New York City or River City, the upcoming slate of high-school musicals aim to transport audiences to another time and place.

Among destinations of upcoming shows are the small Iowa town of Meredith Wilson's “The Music Man” and the Big Apple in a little-known Leonard Bernstein gem. Others offer entry into the Depression-era setting of “Annie,” “Fiddler on the Roof's” Russia and even the imaginative world of Dr.Seuss.

One thing is for certain, wherever the productions lead, audiences will be glad to follow.

Riverview, “Annie”

Each day spent working on Riverview Junior-Senior High School's production of “Annie” has allowed director John Paul Bertucci to see firsthand how working on the musical challenges students to see new things and inspires their creativity.

“The students enjoy becoming what they are not in real life,” he says.

“They enjoy the escape, the fantasy, the dance, the magic that they are making each day.”

From his point of view, there's even more to it.

“I believe that in unlocking a student's imagination, we give them the power to envision a world better than the one in which we live.”

Bringing the much-loved tale of the irrepressible Depression-era orphan to life has been a great experience for Maddie Kocur, a ninth-grade student in the title role. ‘Annie' is a childhood favorite.

“It's such an iconic musical,” she says. “The characters and the songs are so much fun and engaging. Almost every little girl I know has heard of or loves ‘Annie.'

Preparing to play Miss Hannigan, the villainous woman running Annie's orphanage, has been fun for Jocelyn Hong.

“I've been working on my cheap Brooklyn accent for the part and have watched many videos of Carol Burnett as Miss Hannigan to get the creative juices flowing,” the senior says.

Playing Grace Farrell, the personal secretary to Oliver “Daddy” Warbucks, is junior Niomi Phillips. She says audiences will most likely enjoy Annie's “bright and tough” attitude, as well as the brash way Warbucks talks.

“I can't wait for people to see how amazing our production will be,” she says.

Riverview's production of the rags-to-riches tale is one Dante DiPietro, a junior who plays Warbucks, has enjoyed. He thinks audiences will love the show as much as Riverview's cast and crew does.

“I believe people will enjoy this show because it is all about finding hope and a family,” he says.

7:30 p.m. April 5-6 and 12-13; 2 p.m. April 7 at Tenth Street Elementary School, 10th Street at Pennsylvania Avenue, Oakmont. Admission: $10; $8 for students and senior citizens. Details: 412-828-1800, ext. 1038

Burrell, “Wonderful Town”

A fun, but lesser-known, musical takes to the stage with Burrell High School's production of “Wonderful Town.”

Based on the Tony-winning play “My Sister Eileen,” first produced in the 1950s, the show tells the tale of two sisters who move to New York City in the hopes of making it big.

“I think anyone with a sibling that they don't always get along with will be able to connect with Ruth and Eileen, who are clearly, at the same time, best friends and one of the major irritants in each other's lives,” director Martin Connolly says.

The show, which features slapstick humor, upbeat music and an ensemble cast, is one Connolly says has been in his back pocket for a few years.

“I'm surprised it's not a staple of shows that high schools do on a regular basis, but somehow it has been overlooked as a Leonard Bernstein classic.”

This year, he realized he had the right group of students to bring it to life.

Playing one of the sisters, Ruth Sherwood, is Burrell senior Maddie Costa.

“It's a comedy full of many funny and entertaining parts and, of course, some romance, as well as a variety of unique and fun songs and dances,” she says.

Junior Lucas Misera plays laid back Bob Baker, who falls for one of the sisters. The show, he says, is one most people will enjoy for a number of reasons.

“I think people should realize that, although “Wonderful Town” isn't a particularly well-known musical, it's a musical full of great music and a lot of humor,” he says.

As the sisters' story unfolds, it should inspire more than just laughs, based on what Rachel Metnick says. The junior plays Helen, the love of an off-season professional football player.

“I believe the audience will enjoy this production since it's an upbeat comedy about following your dreams, which everyone can relate to,” she says.

7:30 p.m. April 11-13 at Burrell High School, 1021 Puckety Church Road, Lower Burrell. Admission: $6 and $8. Details: 724-334-1406

Plum, “Seussical the Musical”

To play the Cat in the Hat in Plum High School's production of “Seussical the Musical,” sophomore Emily Matisko is making sure to keep her energy levels up.

From the sounds of it, the musical should do the same for those in the audience.

“It's a fun, high-energy show with a little something for everyone,” she says.

“Everyone plays their characters so well. It's definitely a show worth seeing.”

Among those characters are not only the Cat in the Hat, but Horton the Elephant, Mayzie La Bird and a host of other much-loved Dr. Seuss creations.

“Everyone knows these characters, from young to old,” director John DeLuce says.

“I like that the focus is on Seuss' language and incorporates so many stories into an original story with a new message.”

“‘Seussical' has a ton of characters and tells a great story.”

Junior Connor Cook plays Horton. He agrees that the show will appeal to all. “It's a really fun family show with unique music, stylish lyrics and lines and crazy characters,” he says.

“I tell people to bring their children,” says Logan Smith, a sophomore, who plays the thoughtful Jo Jo.

Playing the free-spirited Mayzie La Bird is senior Corissa Bruno. She thinks there is a lot to like about the show.

“The colors are bright, the songs have a lot of meaning and the characters are unique and relatable at times,” she says.

“'Seussical' is a musical that just makes you want to smile and dance.”

7 p.m. April 11-13 at Plum High School, 900 Elicker Road, Plum. Admission: $10. Details: 412-795-4880, ext. 8155; email:;

Deer Lakes, “Fiddler on the Roof”

Before even the first rehearsal, Deer Lakes High School musical director Jennifer Mann knew her cast was well-suited for the timeless classic “Fiddler on the Roof.”

“Sometimes, when you are hearing the students audition, you can see the musical come to life and that is what happened this year,” she says.

It's more than acting and musical talent that Mann would like audiences to see of her cast.

“Come to the show, and you can feel their energy and their sheer joy,” she says.

The musical tells the story of a Jewish milkman, Tevye, in Tsarist Russia. Senior Tom Kadlick plays the part. He says the show transcends cultures.

“‘Fiddler on the Roof' is an amazing story about a Russian Jewish man named Tevye that has to deal with his three eldest daughters straying away from the tradition of their Jewish faith, while at the same time all the Jews are being evicted from their town due to bigotry in the outside world,” he explains.

“While all of this happens, he keeps his keen wit and sense of humor and extreme devotion to God.”

Junior Lizzy Mann says Deer Lakes has a “great show in store for everyone.”

Her character, the fiddler of the title, is an interesting one.

“I am preparing for the role by being bigger with all of my actions so the audience can truly see my emotion, even though I don't speak.”

Student director Bobby Bertha, a junior, says the production is “a great musical for all ages, from grandparents who want something to do to the little kindergartener who wants to go out with their parents.”

Senior Samantha Wilczynski who plays Hodel, one of Tevye's daughters notes the closeness that has developed among cast and crew.

There are many things about “Fiddler on the Roof” to like, she says.

“The story line will intrigue the audience, the music will entertain them, and the humor will keep them laughing,” she says.

7 p.m. April 12- 13; 1 p.m. April 14 at Deer Lakes High School, 163 E. Union Road, West Deer. Admission: $8. Details: 724-265-5320

Ford City, “The Music Man”

For this year's musical production, Ford City director Cortney Bavera was looking for a light-hearted show with a large ensemble and good music.

She found that in “The Music Man.”

“We selected this show because it is a well-known, fun show,” she says of the Meredith Wilson masterpiece.

With a cast of 34 and lots of lively music, the story of Professor Harold Hill and his efforts to con a town as “the music man” is sure to please.

“The show revolves around the arrival of a known con man named Professor Harold Hill, who claims to the people of River City Iowa that his ‘boy's band' will bring them up from the doldrums of despair and degradation, all while never knowing any hint of how to lead a band or even begin to teach music,” says senior Troy Dinga, who plays Hill.

Senior Harley Beal, who plays Zaneeta Shinn, the daughter of River City's mayor, says the show is one the audience can really get into. “The wit and humor and intellect (Dinga as Hill) provides is unbearable,” she says.

“Additionally, I think this is a great show for sharp audiences. Quick one-liners and subtle jokes had most of us reeling at the first reading.”

Senior Claire Smathers plays Marian Paroo, the librarian who despite her best intentions and skepticism, falls in love with Hill. She agrees that the show's humor will be well-received.

“I think audiences will enjoy this musical, because it has the type of quick humor that almost catches you off guard,” she says. “I think that people will also appreciate the uniqueness of the music and the quaint charm that comes along with a musical about a small American town during the turn of the century.”

From Bavera's perspective, the show has a timeless quality.

7 p. m. April 12-13; 2:30 p.m. April 14 at Ford City High School, 1100 Fourth Ave., Ford City. Admission: $8, reserved seating. Details: 724-859-6641; fordcitymusical

Julie Martin is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.



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