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Theater

Annual Vandergrift Christmas show takes the road home

| Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2018, 12:03 a.m.
In a scene from Hometown Christmas, Vandergrift, are (from left) Hope Albert (next to Baxter, the dog), Jordan Zellers (standing center), Julia Szitas (sitting center), 
Kate Myers (standing far right) and Athena Wray.
Brady Bottegal
In a scene from Hometown Christmas, Vandergrift, are (from left) Hope Albert (next to Baxter, the dog), Jordan Zellers (standing center), Julia Szitas (sitting center), Kate Myers (standing far right) and Athena Wray.
The Hometown Christmas cast prepares for 23rd edition of the show at Vandergrift’s Casino Theatre
Brady Bottegal
The Hometown Christmas cast prepares for 23rd edition of the show at Vandergrift’s Casino Theatre

In Vandergrift, says Patti Albert, people love that they are offered a Christmas show that is truly about Christmas and what it means.

“Everyone has something different that they enjoy. Some like more music, some like a story line, but that is the overwhelming response,” says the veteran director of Hometown Christmas.

“At Christmas … All Roads Lead Home,” the 23rd annual edition, will be presented at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 30 and Dec. 1 and 2 p.m. Dec. 2 at the Casino Theatre.

“People coming for the first time will experience a very warm, loving feeling that will leave them in the true spirit of Christmas. I hope they leave humming a tune,” Albert says.

The all-volunteer effort is the largest fundraiser of the year for the renovations and working expenses of the historic Casino.

“We have raised well over $200,000 over the last 22 years,” she says.

There are about 100 people involved with a cast of 52, 13 members of a pit orchestra, set creators and others helping with costumes, make up, decorations and more.

A show with staying power

It well may be the longest- running community Christmas show in the Alle-Kiski Valley.

“This year, the road will take everyone to the Casino when it was a young vaudeville theater in 1919 (it was built in 1900),” Albert says. “The show actually takes place in 1920 in Vandergrift when it was just beginning as a town, when there were still farms around and the Casino was the center of culture in this the first worker-owned town in America.”

The town was designed by the firm of Fredrick Law Olmsted made famous by his design of Central Park and the National Zoo. “In fact, if you walk through either of those places, you will understand how Vandergrift became the town of winding streets. I wish people would learn its history and choose to maintain its importance in history,” she says.

A new musical

Last year’s show was a musical and a huge hit, Albert adds, so she decided to do another musical this year.

“The cast is a truly talented group of people, extremely dedicated and dependable,” she says. “They are the nicest people you will ever meet, and it is my privilege to direct them.”

Joanne Zboran of Allegheny Township is the only cast member, other than Albert, who has been in all 23 shows. “I loved being in Hometown Christmas from the very first show. It brought together a whole new group of people to call family,” Zboran says. “Patti made it easy to want to come back year after year, always bringing something new to the shows.” She portrays church organist Cornelia Washburn.

“I hope to be doing these shows for many years to come. There is something special about them all,” Zboran says.

Rex Rutkoski is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.

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