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Musical group travels for performance

| Monday, Dec. 23, 2002

When the temperature was a muggy 93 last July 4, members of the Sewickley Melody group were dancing and singing at Kennywood in thick, velvet costumes.

"Any day that I can perform is great, so you just have to put up with that kind of thing," said Jenna Noel, 18, of McCandless, a member of the group and a senior at North Allegheny Senior High School.

Noel and the group's other 13 members were rewarded for enduring the sweltering heat: A video of the Kennywood performance persuaded Disney officials to invite Sewickley Melody to the Magic Kingdom, where the group will perform Friday and Saturday on the Tomorrowland stage.

"You never know who may be watching you," Noel said.

The members, who range in age from 8 to 18, are students at the Sewickley School for Performing Arts, which offers instruction in dance, acting and voice.

Sewickley Melody's members perform song and dance routines that are mostly taken from blockbuster Broadway musicals, such as "42nd Street" and "Anything Goes." This week's performance is a routine of Christmas songs and dances.

Hundreds of amateur performance groups are selected to perform at Disney World in the park's Magic Music Days program each year, said Marilyn Waters, a Disney spokeswoman.

"This is a great experience for young performers," Waters said. "They get to meet our professional entertainers, who often give young performers advice about how they can use their talent to get work."

The group has practiced many of its routines in the Pittsburgh area, including recent performances at Ross Park Mall and South Hills Village.

"So far, the group's performances have all been here in Pittsburgh," said Cassandra Sproch, the school's owner. "The Disney trip is an exciting opportunity."

Many in the group, like Ryan Mikita, 16, of Avalon, never have been to Disney World.

"It's a great once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," said Mikita, a 10th-grader at Northgate High School who has been acting in musicals since he played Winthrop in "The Music Man" at the age of 9.

Members of the Sewickley Melody are focused and driven, and quite certain about what they want to do after graduation.

Both Noel and Mikita, for example, said they hope to attend New York University, as much for the chance to experience New York theater as for the school's academics.

"These are serious young people," Sproch said. "Activities and classes here at the Sewickley School are in addition to whatever they may be doing in school."

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