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St. Joseph, Kittanning high-school musicals share imagination

| Sunday, March 17, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Joey Recupero (standing), Chloe Bowser (floor-L), Madison Kunst, Erick Shiring, Graham Cousins and Cora Masters along with the cast rehearse a number for Kittanning's Spring Musical, 'Schoolhouse Rock Live' being staged March 22-23 at Kittanning High School, Friday March 1, 2013.
Bill Shirley | For The Valley News Dispatch
Joey Recupero (standing), Chloe Bowser (floor-L), Madison Kunst, Erick Shiring, Graham Cousins and Cora Masters along with the cast rehearse a number for Kittanning's Spring Musical, 'Schoolhouse Rock Live' being staged March 22-23 at Kittanning High School, Friday March 1, 2013.

Two upcoming high-school productions promise to bring education and inspiration to the stage with colorful casts of characters and upbeat musical numbers. But, both add more than that to the mix to bring their shows to life.

St. Joseph “Seussical the Musical”

“The key word is ‘imagination,' ” says Jimmy Baker, director of St. Joseph High School's production of “Seussical the Musical.”

“Imagination is very powerful. It has the ability to take you from your world and day-to-day life and transport you to a place where there are no worries.”

In “Seussical,” Baker sees an opportunity for his student actors, always busy with extracurricular activities, to explore an imaginative world.

With its zany combination of characters from much-loved children's author Dr. Seuss, the show offers not only the cast and crew, but also the audience, a chance to do just that.

They can also take with them a sense of inspiration.

“Dr. Seuss was good for incorporating significant life messages in his works,” Baker says.

Mallory Millberger feels the same. The junior plays Gertrude McFuzz, a shy, awkward bird.

“These are classic stories by Dr. Seuss that so many people have heard through their childhood that are being brought to life on stage,” she says. “There are so many empowering messages in this show.”

The show incorporates Dr. Seuss stories into an exciting and accessible musical production, which the St. Joseph cast and crew have enthusiastically embraced.

“The audience is going to love this one,” says junior Mitch Farrell, who plays the Cat in the Hat.

“This is my sixth musical, and I have never seen so much potential in a cast before. Every rehearsal is a room full of smiling, dancing, singing high-school kids who love being there.”

Junior Eric Praniewicz, who plays Horton, the shy but persistent elephant, is proud of the work the cast has put in.

“I think we've all stepped up our game for this show, and it's coming together nicely,” he says.

Tressa Holodnik, a junior who plays the fun and brassy Sour Kangaroo, says the show includes hig-energy numbers as well as heartwarming songs, which can transport anyone “out of reality and into your imagination.”

“We have this magical story to tell,” she says.

Freshman Alexandra Loperfito agrees. She plays JoJo, a creature as tiny as a speck of dust, who befriends Horton.

“The show can relate to audiences of all ages, not just children,” she says. “Parents can remember reading these books as children and can see pieces of many storylines throughout the musical.”

7 p.m. March 21-22; 2 and 7 p.m. March 23; 2 p.m. March 24 at Penn State, New Kensington, Upper Burrell, 3550 Seventh Street Road

Admission: $10; $6 for age 10 and younger. Details: 724-224-5552

Kittanning “Schoolhouse Rock Live!”

“Schoolhouse Rock Live!” offers another escape into an imaginative world, one that revolves around education and characters from the Emmy-winning 1970s cartoon show.

“It's high energy, fun and on the sneaky side. Kids will learn without even realizing it,” says first-year director Craig Klukan.

The show revolves around Tom, a new teacher anxiously anticipating his first day of school. It features lots of color and fun in the form of props and costume changes as he draws upon his memories of the “Schoolhouse Rock” television show for inspiration.

“Since the ‘Schoolhouse Rock' cartoons ran in the '70s, we tried to create a '70s vibe with our set and costumes,” Klukan says.

In addition, the show's upbeat selection of songs from the cartoon classic — like “Conjunction Junction” and “Just a Bill” — will be performed by live musicians.

Joseph C. Recupero III, a senior who plays the nervous new educator, describes the show's situation as one where Tom's “personality comes out to remind him why he loves being a teacher.”

“I am part of an amazing cast,” Recupero says. “We put so much hard work and effort into making the show amazing for our audience.”

While its subject matter may seem elementary, “the show has a fun, childlike quality, while, at the same time (has), an ironic adult humor,” says junior Erick Shiring, who plays Joe, Tom's laid-back, bluesy and fun side.

“I think those qualities make it endearing and definitely entertaining to watch.”

Chloe Bowser feels the same way. The senior, who plays the fun and energetic Dori, thinks the show is appealing to all.

“It's more for the younger ages from a learning aspect,” she says, “but it appeals to adults because they grew up with the memories of these shows.”

Some cast members, like Cara Marie Masters, playing Dina, Tom's serious side, still can enjoy the lessons.

“I feel like I am back in grade school learning these subjects in a fun and different way,” she says.

Cast members cite other important lessons, as well.

Playing the confident and romantic George, senior Graham Cousins says he is preparing for the show through “practice, practice, practice.”

“For me, it's all about the rush of performing on stage,” he says.

“When the curtain opens in front of a crowd of people, it's exhilarating.”

Being a part of “Schoolhouse Rock Live!” has been a lot of fun for freshman Madison Kunst. She plays the sweet and innocent Shulie.

“I love becoming friends with the cast,” she says. “And the feeling of accomplishment at the end.”

7 p.m. March 22-23; 2 p.m. March 23 at Kittanning High School Performing Arts Center, 1200 Orr Ave. Admission: $10, reserved seating; $8 for age 62 and older with gold card Details: 724-543-1591

Julie Martin is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.

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