Munhall father, son lend their talents to 'Tenor' role

| Wednesday, April 3, 2013, 12:26 a.m.

Like father, like son?

In addition to one being an adjunct instructor of psychology while the other is a student at Community College of Allegheny County's South Campus in West Mifflin, Bob and Zach Miller of Munhall now have something else in common.

Bob just wrapped up a performance as Saunders in “Lend Me a Tenor” at McKeesport Little Theater, while Zach is in final rehearsals in the same role for the college's spring theatre production, which opens Thursday night at 8.

“I think it was while I was in the process of auditioning that he came home and said, ‘Guess what play CCAC South is doing?'” Bob said of his son.

The show is a comedy by Ken Ludwig set in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1934.

Saunders is the Cleveland Grand Opera's general manager, who has convinced renowned tenor Tito Merelli to sing the lead in “Otello,” which is being produced as a gala fundraiser.

The plot involves a sometimes hilarious series of events that include a bellhop named Frank, Tito's wife Maria, Saunders' daughter Maggie, Saunders' assistant Max, opera company ingénue soprano Diana and chairwoman of the opera house Julia.

While the pair didn't practice their lines together at home, Zach said he and his father bounced ideas off each other.

Bob got his feet wet in theater at age 56, helping out behind the scenes when Zach joined McKeesport Little Theater's Juniors program under the leadership of Dorothy Fallows.

George Jaber, head of the theater department and “Tenor” director, said he selected the show because of the set.

“I knew that the scenery was available from 31st Street Studios,” he said.

With another $7,000 worth of materials, the scenery was adapted with designs by Jeff Fuga and Conrad Quesen with Stephanie Thompson to accommodate the college production.

Atlanta native Terrell Grayson, in his last semester at CCAC South, plays the role of Tito. He said he has never done any dialects so the role will help add to his résumé as he pursues a performing career.

Steel Valley grad Rachel Dudash said she specifically auditioned for Maggie.

Danielle Durbin is enjoying her role as Julia, chairwoman of the opera house, who considers herself a “grande damme.”

Professionally, she said she'd also like to explore cinematography or direct.

Anthony Gullikson, who came to the area from Sonoma, Calif., is protagonist Max.

When it appears Tito will be unable to perform, and may even be dead, Saunders persuades Max to disguise himself as the great tenor.

He said the audience will discover if Max can overcome his sheepishness and insecurities and win the love of Saunders' daughter Maggie.

While many of the students plan to transfer to four-year colleges to pursue degrees in theater or related fields, non-theater majors also pop up in some productions.

That's the case for science major Valerie Woolaghan as Diana, who met Jaber when he filled in for an instructor in one of her non-science classes.

“I'm taking 18 credits and working full-time,” Woolaghan said. “I want to be a forensic toxicologist. But I've always loved acting.”

Theater major R.J. Maginness of Plum has lots of ambition, a sassy attitude and provides comic relief through his bellhop character's ongoing feud with Saunders.

Completing the cast is Irina Kuslieva as Tito's hot-tempered wife Maria, who loves the man despite his philandering.

She was in last year's musical “Rent” and studied ballet in Russia.

Others essential to the production are Kevin Maloney, lighting director; Sean Guzzi, sound operator; Maryann Z. O'Farrell, costumer and seamstress; Monica Ferrara, property mistress; Kalyn Populo, stage manager; Brendan Smith, technical director; Mark Domencic, operatic training; and Diana Ifft, dialect coach.

Bonnijean Cooney Adams is an editor for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-380-8503, or

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