From generation to generation, the music keeps going at St. Sebastian Parish
March 4, 2016 12:00 AM
Students in the St. Sebastian Youth Ministry carry off Calvin Chumura as a contemporary Christ as they rehearse "Jesus Christ Superstar," this year's musical held to raise money for charity. A tradition for 44 years, current cast members have parent and grandparents who participated.
Megan Krull sings "I Don't Know How to Love Him" to Calvin Chumura during a rehearsal of "Jesus Christ Superstar."
From left, John Galbraith, Dominic Melchiorre and Jack Wells debate the problems created by Jesus Christ as students in the St. Sebastian Youth Ministry rehearse "Jesus Christ Superstar."
Jacqueline Hien, left, and Andrew Magee are among the students in the St. Sebastian Youth Ministry rehearsing "Jesus Christ Superstar."
Students in the St. Sebastian Youth Ministry rehearse "Jesus Christ Superstar."
By Sharon Eberson / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Some families pass down heirlooms or fandom from generation to generation. For members of St. Sebastian Parish in Ross, it’s a spot in the annual musical.
For 43 years, performers of St. Sebastian Youth Ministry have been putting on a show to raise money for charity, then seeing children and siblings and cousins stepping in year after year.
Averaging $10,000 a year, proceeds from the musical go to the Roman Catholic Diocese mission in Chimbote, Peru, and St. Sebastian's Project HOPE Appalachian mission in Floyd County, Ky. Most members of the cast and creative team take a trip to the Kentucky mission as part of the program.
“That’s how our show is different; it’s a means to an end,” said Elizabeth Wells, a producer of the show. “The kids want to raise funds for our missions. So it’s not necessarily because you are in musical theater. They are here for what our organization stands for.”
High school students from communities throughout the northern suburbs make up the cast of this year’s offering, “Jesus Christ Superstar,” under the guidance of director Craig Kreutzer for the 18th year. WTAE’s Mike Clark and Kelly Brennan -- a St. Sebastian musical alum -- have contributed news clips to help narrate the story, which reimagines “Superstar” as a political campaign, with Jesus as a candidate.
Calvin Chmura, who plays Jesus and is a senior at North Hills High School, was recruited by friends and has done the musical since his sophomore year. His mother had performed for St. Sebastian, and he attended shows for years before he took the plunge.
“Now, after doing it for three years, I think I would have been so upset with myself if I hadn’t done the show. … The friendships that you make, that’s what really brought me into it, and the causes it’s going to,” he said.
Andrew Magee, a senior at North Allegheny Senior High School, also is following in his mother’s footsteps — and his sisters as well.
“My one older sister didn’t want to do it at first, but my mom dropped her off at the auditions and that was it,” he said. “Eight years later, here I am, with a sister in between. And I have another cousin in the cast right now. I don’t really care for being in school musicals, but it’s more than just a musical. It’s something you want to be a part of.”
Madeline Badaczewski, also of North Allegheny, is one of six siblings and the fifth to be involved in the show. Jacqueline Hein, who attends St. Sebastian School and has several roles — among them the Virgin Mary and an accuser — is in her fourth year. She is Mr. Kreutzer’s niece and has had cousins in the show.
“Maybe I’m not the best at music, but being from here, you don’t have to be. You can help out and you are important here,” she said.
The company of “Jesus Christ Superstar” rehearses in the St. Sebastian School gym, which will be transformed into a theater in time for opening night.
The musical opens Thursday with a cabaret dinner performance at St. Sebastian Church, 311 Siebert Road. Regular performances are 7:30 p.m. next Friday, 2 and 7:30 p.m. March 12 and 2 p.m. March 13.
There’s a lot of juggling and work-arounds during rehearsals when you put on a show with students and adults from different communities. Mr. Kreutzer also is assistant director of “High School Musical” at Vincentian Academy, and his “Superstar” Judas, Breanna Byce, plays Sharpay for Vincentian. Some roles are double-cast — for instance, Megan Krull of Pittsburgh CAPA and Sara Custer of North Hills as Mary Magdalene.
Although the performers take the creative process seriously, they are in it for the fun, the camaraderie and the mission.
“I’ve been in musical theater since fifth grade, and I’ve never thought about doing another show but the North Hills show until I saw [the St. Sebastian show] myself,” Calvin said. “They have so much fun and it goes to such a great cause.”
Madeline has been to the HOPE Appalachian mission in Kentucky, an experience she continues to carry with her.
“When you go down there and you see the people and their needs and what they are going through, it’s kind of life-changing,” she said. “It’s hard to imagine living in that situation, and the power we have to make their life better is incredibly strong.”
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