High school thespians come together for ‘Night of the Stars’

April 25, 2018

Veteran actor, performing arts enthusiast and Greensburg attorney John Noble always has a new idea for taking his beloved showcase of musical theater, “John Noble’s Westmoreland Night of the Stars,” to the next level.

Last year he expanded the show to two nights to accommodate the growing number of participating schools and capacity crowds at The Palace Theatre.

This spring he has added middle schools to the mix of Westmoreland area high schools and home school students that will have their “12 minutes of fame” (the allotted performance time for each school) onstage on May 2 and 3.

“This year we will be smashing all student participation records – over 1,000 students – with 20 schools, 10 each night,” says Noble, who serves as emcee at the shows. “The two-night format was definitely the right move since we finally outgrew the Palace seating capacity.”

Proceeds from ticket sales help the school districts support their musical theater programs and provide scholarships for students pursuing theater studies.

Noble gives special credit to the smaller schools “who through tremendous parent and teacher volunteerism with little to no budgets present wonderful musicals. And there is nothing small about their musicals whatsoever.”

Kayla Tamer, director at Derry Area High School, says more than 60 students were involved as cast, crew and pit in this year’s production of “The Addams Family.” At The Palace Theatre, the crew will perform two group numbers, “When You’re an Addams” and “Move Toward the Darkness” with several solo dance numbers.

The director says her students love to participate in “Night of the Stars.”

“It’s a great opportunity for scholarships and a night full of appreciation for the arts,” she says. “Our students really enjoy watching other students from Westmoreland County perform and they love to show off all of their hard work from our recent production. It is also a great experience for them to perform in front of a new audience and in a different venue.”

Monessen High School was another small school performing a large dance musical, “Anything Goes, “which featured “terrific choreography and outstanding individual performances with several younger actors in lead roles,” according to Noble.

Hilary Brown, Monessen High School and Middle School band, chorus and theater director, says the experience “has been an amazing journey for my students to be able to perform a dance-heavy show. Many of these kids have never danced on stage, let alone an entire tap dance routine. They learned ballroom dancing, tap and jazz this year – great accomplishment!”

“Night of the Stars” is “a wonderful night of musical theater at its best,” she says, “and a night of celebration for all of the hard work these students have put into each of their musicals.”

Greensburg Salem Middle School will be one of four groups of middle school students participating in “Night of the Stars.” Melanie Callas, chorus teacher and musical director, says 80 students in grades 6 to 8 were in their production of “Tarzan.”

Their appearance at the Palace Theatre will help them “to see what incredible talent our county has to offer,” she says, “as well as their future with our own high school shows. Theater arts instill such passion, creativity, imagination, self-confidence, discipline, working as a team and empathy into students today that help them flourish in this ever-changing world.”

Ligonier Valley High School was a small school in size “but enormous in talent, fearlessly taking on ‘West Side Story.’ More than 70 kids in the show were led by seniors in principal roles,” Noble says.

When weather cancellations took away two rehearsals during show week, he says “the kids were so intent on rehearsing the show that when they were not permitted into the school to rehearse, they rehearsed with the orchestra by Skype. I was there opening night and they didn’t miss a beat.”

Ligonier’s Director Brianna Grimm says “Night of the Stars” is a special opportunity for the students in Westmoreland County.

“John Noble has given these students a gift to allow them to showcase their hard work and to support the other high schools of the county,” she says.

The May 2 performance will feature students from Trafford Middle School, Penn Middle School, Derry Area High School, Greater Latrobe High School, Valley High School, Yough Senior High School, Kiski Area High School, Jeannette Senior High School, Monessen Middle-High School and Penn Trafford High School.

On May 3, Burrell High School, Home/Cyber Middle School, Greensburg Salem Middle School, Franklin Regional High School, Greensburg Central Catholic Middle-High School, Stage Right! Arts in Education Home School/Cyber School, Hempfield Area High School, Mt. Pleasant Area, Ligonier Valley High School and Greensburg-Salem High School students will be featured.

Candy Williams is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.