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Roberto Clemente musical making free stop in Brackenridge

| Friday, Jan. 26, 2018, 8:57 p.m.
Joe Fedore as Roberto Clemente
Archie Carpenter
Joe Fedore as Roberto Clemente
Cast of “Arriba! Arriba! The Roberto Clemente Story”
Archie Carpenter
Cast of “Arriba! Arriba! The Roberto Clemente Story”

Joseph Fedore can still remember the magical stories his dad told him as a young boy about Roberto Clemente's stunning exploits for the Pittsburgh Pirates.

“I had seen some pictures and videos, too,” the former Shaler resident recalls.

Now Fedore, 26, is helping bring those very true stories to life for a new generation with his portrayal of the beloved icon in the Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera Academy's touring production of “Arriba! Arriba! The Roberto Clemente Story.”

His father, Michael Fedore of Cranberry, will be in the audience for at least one of the estimated 120 performances of the 50-minute mini-musical across the region.

“The cast is a wonderfully diverse group of actors who bring 100 percent to what we're doing every day,” says Fedore, now living in Lawrenceville.

The tour includes a free admission 11 a.m. show on Feb. 10, also open to adults, at Trinity United Methodist Church, Brackenridge.

Allegheny Valley Association of Churches (AVAOC) is sponsoring the event through grant money from the homeless education children's fund. “It's a really good show,” says Beth Kendra of the AVAOC.

“Adults also really love it because they remember it happening in real time,” says its author and director Jason Coll of Bethel Park.

The Carnegie Mellon University graduate began as a performer for the CLO at the age of 10 and has been writing shows for the company since 1997, including six for their Gallery of Heroes program. In order: “Pioneers of Flight,” “Arriba! Arriba!” “Steel,” “The Amazingly True Adventures of Nellie Bly,” “Young Washington” and “The Incredibly Innovative Innovators of Pittsburgh.”

Each year, the Academy entertains and educates an average of 36,000 students in the region. The Clemente story was also produced in 1998, 1999 and 2006.

Coll says he wants to introduce young audiences to Roberto Clemente and his story.

“They've seen his statue and maybe heard about him or seen the number 21 posted at PNC Park, but a lot of kids have no idea who he was and what he meant to the City of Pittsburgh and the people of Puerto Rico,” he explains.

He hopes audiences will see the obstacles Clemente had to overcome just to play in the Major Leagues.

“But more importantly they'll see the fire that drove him to strive for perfection on the field, as well as his selflessness in trying to help the earthquake victims in Nicaragua,” he says.

What makes it current, Coll adds, is putting a face on the people of Puerto Rico, especially in light of what they have gone through since September with the devastation of Hurricane Maria.

Vera Clemente, Roberto's widow, and former Pirate player and broadcaster Nellie King, who played with Clemente and then covered his feats on radio, were instrumental in helping shape the story when he wrote it in 1998, Coll says.

“This is definitely more than a baseball story, and I do not think you need to be a fan of the sport to enjoy it,” says Fedore. “There's just so many themes permeating throughout the story: family, love, trust, hope, belief in yourself, to name just a few. I guarantee there's something in it for everyone.”

Coll agrees.

“Baseball is only the backdrop to this amazing man's life,” he says.

The CLO reminds that 45 years after his untimely death, the hopes and dreams of Roberto Clemente are still making a difference in the lives of people everywhere.

“Roberto's immense pride for everything he did is inspiring to me,” says Fedore. “I hope to inspire kids the same way Roberto inspires me.”

Rex Rutkoski is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.

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