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High-school 'Stars' shine to help keep the musicals going

| Sunday, May 4, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
Evan Sanders | Tribune-Review
Caroline Kettering (front), as Maria, begins to sing while performing a scene with Shannon Rygg, as Mother Abbess, during a dress rehearsal of Greensburg Central Catholic's “The Sound of Music” on stage at the Greensburg Garden & Civic Center on Thursday, April 24, 2014.
Evan Sanders | Tribune-Review
Peter Pallitto (front), as Captain Von Trapp, performs a scene with Lloyd McCullough, as Franz, during a dress rehearsal of Greensburg Central Catholic's “The Sound of Music” on stage at the Greensburg Garden & Civic Center on Thursday, April 24, 2014.
Evan Sanders | Tribune-Review
Caroline Kettering, as Maria, performs a scene with during a dress rehearsal of Greensburg Central Catholic's “The Sound of Music” on stage at the Greensburg Garden & Civic Center on Thursday, April 24, 2014.

Greensburg attorney John Noble explains what Westmoreland Night of the Stars is by first explaining what it isn't — it's not a competition or an awards show.

“It's more of a musical-theater pep rally, where the schools perform for each other, families and friends, with each participating school receiving $1,000 and an award plaque for presenting (a) selected 10 minutes of their musical,” Noble says.

A devoted patron of the performing arts and a veteran actor in many community theater productions, Noble is the driving force behind the stage spectacular that on May 7 will put more than 700 students in the spotlight at The Palace Theatre in Greensburg for one special sold-out performance.

In its 18th year, the show traditionally features a different opening number each year — but always ends with the same finale: “Do You Hear the People Sing?” from the Broadway musical “Les Miserables.”

“It's an inspirational battle song,” Noble says. “We're fighting for the underdog — the arts — out here in Westmoreland, raising $25,000. Some schools have no funding or very little from their school districts. ... We're celebrating the arts out here, where there are no losers, no scoreboards. Everyone wins.”

The closing ensemble number pays tribute to local graduating seniors who have participated in their musical-theater productions during their high-school years. Noble has attended many of them; he makes it a point to visit all the participating schools during the spring theater season.

He says he can't wait to see the excitement on students' faces when they reprise a scene from their shows on The Palace Theatre stage.

“My favorite nights are the rehearsals, which are kind of like a Christmas Eve of theater, with that ‘I can't wait' feeling mixed with the pride of accomplishment,” he says.

Noble annually produces, directs and emcees Night of the Stars, which turns over 100 percent of ticket sales to the schools and is assisted by participating sponsors.

Joette Salandro, head of the visual and performing-arts department at Greensburg Central Catholic High School, directed the school's musical, “The Sound of Music,” April 25 and 26 at Greensburg Garden and Civic Center. She and her students will participate in Night of the Stars, which Greensburg Central Catholic has done since the event began.

“We try to feature as many students as we can ... so, traditionally, we create a medley of short excerpts of several songs,” Salandro says. “We are very fortunate in Westmoreland County to have John Noble and the many individuals and businesses who continue to support the arts. Through their generosity, our programs have received thousands of dollars and our students the recognition they deserve.”

Noble says this year's show will mark the final production for Penn Trafford High School's producer, Beverly Rubright, the only school musical sponsor in the show's history who has participated in all 18 annual events since 1997. Her students will perform a portion of “Shrek the Musical.”

Other highlights of Night of the Stars include the debut of three new shows, “Tarzan” by Kiski Area High School, “Lucky Stiff” by Ligonier Valley High School and a homeschooled-students group doing “Snow White,” an original musical by David Mahokey and Greg Keresten.

Candy Williams is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.

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