Thomas Jefferson students to perform 'Meet Me in St. Louis'

| Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2014, 9:01 p.m.

“Meet Me in St. Louis” is all about family.

Set in 1904, it's the story of a feisty young woman, Esther Smith, who finds her way to romance.

As the production tells the story of young love, it brings some seniors together on the musical stage for the last time.

Thomas Jefferson High School students will bring it all to life March 13, 14 and 15.

Senior Alyssa Gephart is in the starring role. This fall, she'll be studying musical theater at Shenandoah Conservatory in Virginia.

Gephart, 18, began dance instructions at 2 and acting lessons at 8. Through a documentary, Gephart, of Pleasant Hills, learned about the very first Esther in the 1944 film.

“I love Judy Garland,” she said, “She was this tiny girl with a big voice. It didn't fit her type. She's really iconic.”

The student is intrigued by Garland's character, just one among 80 in the cast. Esther is coy and a schemer, she said. Gabe Cappetta, a senior from Pleasant Hills, is young Esther's love interest.

“I get to kiss him a couple of times,” said Gephart, adding her friends have teased her. “It's not bad. It's all for the show.”

Senior Gina Kilmer, 18, plays Nelda Wheeler, one of Esther's girlfriends, a part written in by director Sandra Barker.

Each season, there's room for anyone who wants to perform.

“I love musicals,” said Kilmer, of Pleasant Hills. “I do love this musical. You can't go wrong with Judy Garland.”

It's a giant step back in time for the cast, not only in the genteel ways of the early 20th century but in the costuming.

“She's working some costume magic,” Gephart said about the costumer.

The fashion magician is Michele Stoicovy, who has transformed TJ students into their many roles for 18 years. Sewing came to her naturally at age 8 because mother and grandmother dabbled in the craft.

A family and consumer science teacher, she has taken on all musicals with determination. The production of “Disney's Beauty and the Beast” was a challenge. “We haven't rented anything in the last 10 years,” she said.

Rather, she shops at thrift stores, eBay or Craigslist. And she makes and remakes outfits, adding pieces to change an outfit as the days pass by in the script. For this musical, Stoicovy, 43, of Jefferson Hills, needs to design 60 long-sleeve ball gowns, and she hopes someone will donate the use of 15 tuxedos for the guys. Students are responsible only for providing period shoes.

Because she knows her actors well, she can pack away items for each one as she finds them. This makes the final fitting process easier. As little as $2,000 to $2,500 could outfit an entire cast. “Disney's Beauty and the Beast” was a bit more expensive at $40 per student.

“This is my creative outlet,” Stoicovy said. “I never dreamed this is what I was going to be doing. I thought I was going to be a dietitian.”

For show and ticket information, call the school at 412-655-8610.

Dona S. Dreeland is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-388-5803 or

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