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Quaker Valley middle-schoolers' musical takes a lot of talent behind scenes, too

| Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
Kristina Serafini | Sewickley Herald
Quaker Valley Middle School eighth-grader Jake McClain (middle) performs as Bugsy Malone with castmates during a rehearsal of 'Bugsy Malone Jr.' at the school Thursday, Dec. 19, 2013.
Kristina Serafini | Sewickley Herald
Quaker Valley Middle School sixth-graders (second and third in row, respectively) Morgan Rinas and Abby Moul perform as Candy Girls with other castmates during 'Bugsy Malone Jr.' rehearsal at the school Thursday, Dec. 19, 2013.
Kristina Serafini | Sewickley Herald
Joseph Stater (front left), a sixth-grader, and Caleb Bender, an eighth-grader perform as Doodle and Dandy Dan, respectively, during 'Bugsy Malone Jr.' rehearsal at Quaker Valley Middle School Thursday, Dec. 19, 2013.
Kristina Serafini | Sewickley Herald
Quaker Valley Middle School students rehearse a scene from 'Bugsy Malone Jr.' at the school Thursday, Dec. 19, 2013
Kristina Serafini | Sewickley Herald
Quaker Valley Middle School eighth-grader John Corbett (front) performs as Fat Sam with castmates during a rehearsal of 'Bugsy Malone Jr.' at the school Thursday, Dec. 19, 2013.

It takes many hands to pull together the Quaker Valley Middle School musical each year.

This year's production, “Bugsy Malone JR.,” to be presented Jan. 10 and 11, not only involves 70 students in the cast, six on the stage crew and a producer and a director, but several high school students and many parents.

Leads for the show include eighth-graders Jake McClain, 13, son of Mara and Chris McClain of Sewickley, as Bugsy; John Corbett, 14, son of John and Virginia Corbett of Edgeworth, as Fat Sam; Katie Rostek, 13, daughter of Tom and Nancy Rostek of Sewickley, as Tallulah; Caleb Bender, 14, son of Jon and Gretchen of Sewickley, as Dandy Dan; Olivia Albert, 13, daughter of N. Todd and Mary Albert of Edgeworth, as Blousey; Travis Wiehe, 14, son of Oliver and Heather Wiehe of Quaker Heights, as Fizzy; and seventh-grader Rosalie Daval, 12, daughter of Jennifer Ross and Charles Daval of Edgeworth, as Lena Marelli.

Lou Valenzi of Sewickley, middle school vocal- and digital-music teacher and stage manager, is musical director and is coordinating the technical aspects and other details for the production.

Valenzi said he chose this musical — a comical take on 1920s gangster movies — because it has many parts for boys, and he wants to encourage more young men to sing and become involved in QV musicals — and music in general.

For Mary Lynn Pleczkowski of Penn Hills, who has produced many musicals at Quaker Valley High School, this will be her first time producing a middle school play, which will be the first production to be presented in the school's new auditorium.

Pleczkowski said parents are involved in “every single aspect.

“This is a huge undertaking, and we could not do this without them,” she said.

“The parents have designed the posters, sold tickets, helped with costumes, props, sets, flower sales and provided snacks for rehearsal.”

Olivia Sevcik, 15, a sophomore and daughter of Lisa and Matthew Sevcik of Sewickley is in charge of the costumes as her personal project, with Valenzi as her mentor. Some of the costumes were sewn by parents, others were found at thrift stores, and many were borrowed from friends and relatives, Pleczkowski said.

Sophomore Gabriela Zucckero, 16, daughter of Richard and Renee Zucckero of Glen Osborne, volunteered as choreographer as her personal project, with assistance from senior Nicholas Medich, 17, son of David and Gretchen Medich of Edgeworth.

Alex Hencher, 18, a senior, son of Eileen and Dennis Hencher of Sewickley Hills, is associate director/producer.

Ninth-graders Genevieve Carlson, 14, daughter of Anna and Ron Carlson of Edgeworth, and Olivia Billings, 15, daughter of Don and Robin Billings of Edgeworth, are assistant producers.

Playing Bugsy, Jake has his first lead in a musical, although he has performed in the middle school musical the past two years and has participated in Sewickley Academy's summer Performing Arts Camp for three years. He said the hardest thing about being the lead is memorizing all of his monologues and lines and putting his character into those lines.

“My favorite part of playing the character is being very quick-witted and confident,” he said.

“He's bold and self-assured, which makes him a fun character to play. He grew up in Lower East Side in New York City and tried to stay away from crime. People call him a ladies man.”

Because he wanted the costume to be as authentic as possible, Jake and his mother, Mara, got the outfit from Eons in Shadyside, which carries movie costumes. While they chose clothes, the owner showed them part of the Bugsy movie so they could get the best pieces, including a wide tie.

Jake said he learned how difficult it must have been to live during that era.

“With the Great Depression and Mafia, I'd much rather stay where I am now,” he said.

Funds raised by the production go back into the budget and are used to purchase equipment for the middle school auditorium.

Joanne Barron is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-324-1406 or jbarron@tribweb.com.

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