ShareThis Page

Pine-Richland students up to challenge of musical performance

| Wednesday, March 6, 2013, 9:02 p.m.
Pine Creek Journal
Rush Hodgin, who plays the adult version of Josh Baskin in Pine-Richland's production of 'BIG: the musical,' practices running lines as the students prepare for opening night. Louis Raggiunti | Pine Creek Journal
Pine Creek Journal
Pine-Richland students prepare during one of the final rehearsals for 'BIG: the musical.' Louis Raggiunti
Pine Creek Journal
'BIG: the musical' at Pine-Richland is sure to entertain the audience as this production has a lot of surprises. Louis Raggiunti | Pine Creek Journal
Pine Creek Journal
Abby Dionise plays the role of Mrs. Baskin, Josh's mom, in Pine-Richland production of 'BIG: the musical.' Louis Raggiunti | Pine Creek Journal

When the curtain rises on Pine-Richland High School's production of “Big: the musical” this weekend, the cast will have overcome more challenges than just presenting a difficult show.

During one of the last weeks of rehearsals, one lead character got sick, one lead character was diagnosed with a vocal cord hemorrhage and another lead broke his leg in physical education class.

“The old adage ‘the show must go on' rings true every year,” said Carole Rost, the musical production manager. “It will all work out.

“It's amazing what they (the students) can do.”

The close to 50 cast members, more than half of whom are new to the high school stage, have come together to bring to life the musical version of the 1988 film starring Tom Hanks.

The story follows Josh, a 13-year-old who wishes to be “big” and wakes up the next morning as an adult, and the “big” problems he faces in the adult world.

“It comes to a point that he's not ready to be an adult and being ‘big' is not the wish he wanted,” said Rush Hodgin, a freshman, who plays the adult version of Josh.

In addition to the strong high school talent, the musical also brings to the stage two middle school students, Jake Pedersen and Mark Mongilio, who play young Josh and his best friend Billy, respectively.

“Pine-Richland has a good variety of talent in their district,” Pedersen said.

Pedersen joined the high school cast for the first time in “Les Miserables” two years ago and has been working hard to meet the standards set by the high school musical staff. In addition to practicing his lines and songs, he also is working to mimic the mannerisms of Hodgin's adult version of his character.

“They came in and absolutely wowed me,” Hodgin said of his cast mates. “Little Josh, I compare him to the kid who played him on Broadway, and Mark Mongilio, who plays Billy, combines Billy from the musical and Billy from the movie and makes it his own.”

In addition to the complex, two-story set, and challenging vocal compositions, audiences also will be entertained by the students' take on the film's iconic floor piano scene in which Josh and MacMillan, the owner of the toy store, play “Heart and Soul.”

Robb Montgomery, the technical designer, created a large computerized piano with keys that light up in sync with the music. Hodgin and Andrew Brevik, who plays MacMillan, then spent four weeks working on the choreography for the scene.

“We need it down to 0.01 seconds so it looks like it's completely in sync,” Hodgin said.

Alexis Loiselle, a junior who plays Susan, Josh's adult love interest, said one of her favorite parts of the show is the final scene that features a more intimate ending than some of the classic musicals the high school has staged.

“It's really subtle and I like how different it is,” Loiselle said. “It's not a big ensemble number at the end … it's not a typical musical theater ending. It's less of a wow-factor, but it makes it feel the show's more real.”

Students have rehearsed since January on the two-act show to meet the vocal challenges as well as push themselves to build the group's energy on stage. Rost said the directorial team, which includes Pine-Richland alumni Tim Marquette and Christen Braun, has the same goal for “every ensemble member to look like a lead” on stage.

“That's what makes a show go from good to great.”

Bethany Hofstetter is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-772-6364 or

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using 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.