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Technicolor teamwork: Moon Area, RMU students collaborate on musical production

Andrew Russell | Tribune-Review - Lisa Elliott, choreographer with Robert Morris University facility for Musical Theater and Jazz, instructs a mix of Moon Area High School students and RMU students in the dance moves for “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” in a collaboration between the two schools on Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2013.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Andrew Russell  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>Lisa Elliott, choreographer with Robert Morris University facility for Musical Theater and Jazz, instructs a mix of Moon Area High School students and RMU students in the dance moves for “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” in a collaboration between the two schools on Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2013.
Andrew Russell | Tribune-Review - Robert Morris University students, Nina Danchenko(right), 20, and Victoria Buchtan, 19, both of Moon, rehearse songs for “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” at Moon Area High School incollaboration between Moon Area High School and RMU on Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2013.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Andrew Russell  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>Robert Morris University students, Nina Danchenko(right), 20, and Victoria Buchtan, 19, both of Moon, rehearse songs for “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” at Moon Area High School incollaboration between Moon Area High School and RMU on Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2013.
Andrew Russell | Tribune-Review - Robert Morris University Graduate assistant, Logan Williams, 23, of Bellevue and Moon Area High School student, Jill Kuhlman, 16 of Moon practice dance moves under the instruction of Lisa Elliott, Choreographer with Robert Morris University facility for Musical Theater and Jazz for “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” at Moon Area High School in collaboration between the two schools, Wednesday.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Andrew Russell  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>Robert Morris University Graduate assistant, Logan Williams, 23, of Bellevue and Moon Area High School student, Jill Kuhlman, 16 of Moon practice dance moves under the instruction of Lisa Elliott, Choreographer with Robert Morris University facility for Musical Theater and Jazz for “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” at Moon Area High School in collaboration between the two schools, Wednesday.
Andrew Russell | Tribune-Review - Robert Morris University Graduate assistant, Logan Williams, 23, of Bellevue and Moon Area High School student, Jill Kuhlman, 16 of Moon practice dance moves under the instruction of Lisa Elliott, Choreographer with Robert Morris University facility for Musical Theater and Jazz for “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” at Moon Area High School in collaboration between the two schools, Wednesday.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Andrew Russell  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>Robert Morris University Graduate assistant, Logan Williams, 23, of Bellevue and Moon Area High School student, Jill Kuhlman, 16 of Moon practice dance moves under the instruction of Lisa Elliott, Choreographer with Robert Morris University facility for Musical Theater and Jazz for “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” at Moon Area High School in collaboration between the two schools, Wednesday.
Andrew Russell | Tribune-Review - Jennifer Oliveira, 17 of Moon and junior at Moon Area High School rehearses songs for “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” at Moon Area High School incollaboration between Moon Area High School and RMU, Wednesday.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Andrew Russell  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>Jennifer Oliveira, 17 of Moon and junior at Moon Area High School  rehearses songs for “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” at Moon Area High School incollaboration between Moon Area High School and RMU, Wednesday.
Andrew Russell | Tribune-Review - Lauren Hudnall, 17, and junior at Moon Area High School of Moon rehearses songs for “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” at Moon Area High School incollaboration between Moon Area High School and RMU, Wednesday.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Andrew Russell  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>Lauren Hudnall, 17, and junior at Moon Area High School of Moon   rehearses songs for “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” at Moon Area High School incollaboration between Moon Area High School and RMU, Wednesday.
Andrew Russell | Tribune-Review - Lori Cole, Vocal director at Moon Area High School rehearses songs for “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” with junior high students at Moon Area High School in collaboration between Moon Area High School and RMU, Wednesday.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Andrew Russell  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>Lori Cole, Vocal director at Moon Area High School rehearses songs for “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” with junior high students at Moon Area High School in collaboration between Moon Area High School and RMU, Wednesday.
Andrew Russell | Tribune-Review - Moon Area High School student, Kara Vanderwiel, 15 and Jacob Hunziker, 16, paint the sign for “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” at Moon Area High School in collaboration between Moon Area High School and RMU, Wednesday.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Andrew Russell  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>Moon Area High School student, Kara Vanderwiel, 15 and Jacob Hunziker, 16, paint the sign  for “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” at Moon Area High School in collaboration between Moon Area High School and RMU, Wednesday.

If you go

Event: “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat”

When: 7:30 p.m. Nov. 13 to 16; 2 p.m. Nov. 17

Where: Moon Area High School auditorium, 8353 University Blvd., Moon

Admission: Adults, $12; seniors and students, $10.

Details: 412-264-9440 or www.moonarea.net/130

Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2013, 3:54 p.m.
 

Students swayed to a lively piano accompaniment by Pittsburgh Musical Theater music director Brent Alexander, as PMT choreographer Lisa Elliott directed their routine of interweaving lines on the Moon Area High School stage.

The dance during a rehearsal last week showed how students and staff from the high school, Robert Morris University and PMT are collaborating to stage “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.” The show will open next week in the high school auditorium.

Because Kenneth Gargaro, Robert Morris professor of communications, is the founder of Pittsburgh Musical Theater, he called on some PMT staff members to help at the high school, less than a mile from RMU.

Moon Area and RMU students, along with an RMU staff member, comprise the cast of the contemporary musical about the Biblical tale of Joseph, son of Jacob.

Jacob's 11 other sons sell Joseph into slavery out of jealousy over their youngest brother's favored status. But Jacob eventually rises from slavery to become adviser to the Egyptian pharaoh. With no spoken dialogue, the songs by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice move the plot along while representing different popular musical genres.

“It's a great experience for them to work with other directors,” said Moon Area High School director and teacher Laura Mitchell.

“Because the schedule has been condensed into four weeks, (the high school students) really have to work. The expectation is that they come prepared.”

Gargaro said the collaboration, which originated with now-retired Moon Area Superintendent Donna Milanovich and Robert Morris Vice Provost Lawrence Tomei, is enabling those from the neighboring schools to “learn a little bit more about each other.” The school district and university will share the costs and proceeds.

The show also allows the university students to work in Moon Area's “far superior” auditorium with first-rate equipment. The auditorium opened with the new high school three years ago.

Gargaro said if the show is successful, it could be the start of more collaborations.

Lori Cole, Moon Area vocal director, worked with Moon Area Middle School students, who provide a “Joseph” chorus. Cole said differences do exist, but communication has been key.

Working with Gargaro and with PMT staff such as Alexander and Colleen Petrucci “has been a positive experience,” with the high school performers, local theater patrons and the theater program at Robert Morris University all benefitting, Cole said.

Anthony Lombardo, 21, a Robert Morris senior from Moon who plays Joseph's brother Naphtali, had not performed on the new stage, built after his graduation from Moon Area.

The current crop of Moon Area students was “pretty cool to work with. We're all getting along fairly well,” he said.

“It brings back fond memories of high school theater,” said Raymond Sims, 22, a Robert Morris senior from Bethlehem who plays another of Joseph's brothers, Judah. “I feel like I am passing along some of my experience to the (high school) students.”

“We tend to try and act more mature, to make ourselves better and make the show better,” said Ashley Braxton, 17, a Moon Area senior from Moon who plays one of the brothers' wives.

While many involved praised cooperation among the participants, there have been challenges. One was costume design, said Barbara Burgess-Lefebvre, RMU associate professor of communications and costume designer.

“When you're designing costumes for public schools, there are modesty issues that are different,” she said. “I think we've solved (them)” while maintaining the sexiness of some of the characters.”

Another is the short rehearsal schedule.

“When I was in high school, it took us four months to do a show,” said Logan Williams, 23, of Kane, McKean County, an RMU graduate assistant, who is one of two RMU cast members playing Joseph. He said the Moon students “are incredibly talented. We should feel a lot of pleasure in getting to work with these kids.”

Sandra Fischione Donovan is a freelance writer.

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