Alle-Kiski schools present personalized takes on classic musicals
High school musicals are in full bloom across the Alle-Kiski Valley. Favorite characters from Rydell High are featured, as Burrell showcases the classic musical “Grease.” Travel back in time to pre-revolutionary Russia and discover the tale of a traditional Jewish father who reaches deep in his heart and redefines tradition for his family. Riverview High School presents a musical adaptation of “Fiddler On The Roof.” Tumble down the rabbit hole with Alice and explore the psychedelic and magical world as Kittanning High School comes to the stage with “Alice In Wonderland.”
Joyce Hanz is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.
Grease is the word
Martin Connolly has directed musicals at Burrell High School for eight years. “The kids really wanted to perform “Grease” this year, and I know everyone loves “Grease,” he says.
The 40 cast members have been channeling their inner '50s vibe to re-create the beloved musical. “It's lots of work. I love seeing the kids get better and better, and they grow up, learn. All of the students create everything, from running and designing the set, to lights and sound, they really throw themselves into the role,” Connolly says.
Thomas Swigart, a senior, plays lead Danny Zuko, a “greaser” and love interest of new student Sandy at Rydell High School.
“This is my sixth musical,” Swigart says. “I play Danny, the head of the Greaser gang. He is immature, makes fun of others and wants nothing more than to hook up with chicks. In the musical, he is reintroduced to his summer love interest, Sandy Dumbrowski, and is embarrased of what his friends will think.”
John Travolta made the role of Danny famous. What does Swigart think, following in such footsteps?
“He undoubtedly did a great job in the movie, but the musical script is different from the movie. My favorite part of musical is opening night. That moment when everything comes together, there is no better feeling.”
Re-creating the costumes falls on wardrobe designer Nancy Albinini, who has volunteered for the past eight years. “This year, we have lots of fun circle skirts and bobby socks, and the “tough” kids are wearing tight sweaters, pencil skirts and blue jeans. Kids actually have a lot of clothes in their closets that still reflect that era.”
Eva Smittle, a senior, portrays Rizzo of the Pink Ladies. “Rizzo is very vulnerable, but puts on a tough-girl facade. The toughest scenes for me are the make-out scenes and the fight scenes. I can tell you that our production of “Grease” has a twist on the classic, and it's pretty awesome and hilarious.”
The new student at Rydell High Sandy Dumbrowski, is played by senior Emily Sharick. “She can't find a place to fit in, and she is innocent and awkward, and Rydell High is a shock to her.”
Sharick enjoys singing, and this is her eighth musical at Burrell. “This show is full of great songs, fun songs.”
Go ask Alice
Craig Klukan, who has directed for two years at Kittanning, chose “Alice In Wonderland” because “it's a show that the kids wanted to do, and it's more of a traditional-style show.”
Kittanning's production is the Prince Street Players version, a traveling company that caters to a smaller cast. “The show is shorter, but it has the typical scenes and characters like Cheshire Cat and The Mad Hatter,” he says.
The cast has 20 students and no budget.
“I stepped into the director role because, unfortunately, there were cuts to our arts program,” Klukan says. “We scrape our costumes together by making them, relying on donations from community theater and the generosity of St. Vincent DePaul's (thrift shop) in Kittanning.”
“What we lack in budget, we make up for in quality. My background is in set design, and I'm new to directing. I teach social studies,” he says.
“We are like a family. We have crazy weeks where the practices are six hours. It's marathon, for sure, but you get a lot accomplished.”
Ava Bosco, a sophomore, plays Duck, who is happy and excited. “I have to dance, sing and look funny all at the same time.” Bosco is a veteran of the stage, having grown up singing and performing at Pittsburgh venues.
She says this version of “Alice” is “not the classic movie. It's a blend of Disney, Tim Burton's version and our own twist.”
Sophomore Madison Kunst, who plays Alice, is in her 20th theatrical experience. “I absolutely love everything about this character. The tough part is the amount of dialogue and onstage acting. The musical season is my favorite, and the feeling of accomplishment at the end is so rewarding.”
Rachel Ebig, a junior, will play the Red Queen. “She is prissy and stuck up, which is a blast to act.” She is not afraid to chop your head off if you cross her. It is difficult to find a way to portray her — she is such a sociopath.”
“I really love how close our musical family is this year. The audience will love the show and can expect it to be creepy, exciting and downright hilarious.”
Senior Erick Shiring hops into the role of White Rabbit. “He is so anxious,” Shiring says. “His main purpose is to guide Alice throughout Wonderland. He is a frantic underling of the Red Queen. This show has just enough of both worlds: It's cartoon and artistic.”
John Paul Bertucci tackles the beloved “Fiddler on the Roof” as director for the 15th year for Riverview High School in Oakmont. “Tradition is the theme threaded throughout ‘Fiddler,' and also the theme that love can change everything,” Bertucci says.
He says he believes being in a musical can help mold a person. “Participating in the arts gives the student a sense of confidence and experience in public speaking.”
A cast of 40 will take the stage re-creating the setting: the Russian rural village of Anatevka.
“This is a new version,” Bertucci says. “It's fall and winter in Russia, with less emphasis on bulky sets and more emphasis on the beauty of Russia with creative lighting and a touch of Broadway.”
Josh Killian, a junior, plays lead character Tevye, the milkman father and the heart of the village. “It is an honor to play this role,” says Killian, who has performed in the annual musical since he was in seventh grade.
“Tevye is larger than life, has a genuine love toward others, but, sometimes, he is stubborn and very religious and strict. I really like how this musical lets us take the Jewish tradition and customs to a whole new level.”
Sophomore Andy Galata finds the balance of academics with the rigorous demands of rehearsals a struggle. “Time management, that is the challenge, academics always come first, so when we are at rehearsa,l we are studying and doing homework when not on stage.”
Galata plays Mordcha the innkeeper. “Mordcha is social and, because of his profession, he provides alcohol and everywhere he goes; good times are sure to follow.”
This is Galata's fifth musical season. “My favorite part: the raw emotion in ‘Fiddler.' From the pure joy of the song ‘To Life' or ‘Miracle of Miracles,' the loving affection between the characters, and the heart-wrenching grief and sorrow of the final number, ‘Anatevka.' It's not easy to get the acting just right, but after all of the hard work, performing is a blast.”
Niomi Phillips, a senior, will close out her seven-year musical run with her last high-school performance playing Fruma Sarah, Lazar Wolf's dead wife.
“She does not want her husband to have happiness without her, or remarry. This role requires that I let my embarrassment go. I have to play a crazy dead lady,” Phillips says. “The musical experience really encourages you to come out of your shell and grow and develop.”
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Pirates say goodbye to veteran leaders Burnett, Ramirez
- Elizabeth Forward wins seesaw battle over Yough
- West Mifflin limits chances for Laurel Highlands, wins 28-17
- NFL notebook: Cardinals to stay in W.Va. ahead of Steelers game
- Safety of credit cards up to banks
- Steelers notebook: Starting DEs not leaving the field
- South Fayette extends winning streak in dominating fashion
- Opposing TEs Miller, Gates took differing paths to greatness
- Gorman: WPIAL must answer with power move
- Feds aim to bring Chinese military leaders to Pittsburgh for trial
- Cole working to become Penguins’ next Martin on defense