By Stephen Sears
UNION CITY — Two years ago, Steven Pituch could barely mutter three words on stage.
“I was on stage for three minutes and all I had to say was, ‘Three dollar suits?,’” Pituch said about his bit role in a musical theater class production of “Calamity Jane” at Union City Area Middle-High School. “It was really hard for me to do.”
Pituch, now a senior, has come a long way since that first taste of theater.
He will star as the conniving salesman Harold Hill in the musical theater class’s production of Meredith Wilson’s “The Music Man.” The musical will be performed Friday and Saturday, March 20 and 21, at 7 p.m. in the high school auditorium.
“I’ve never had a solo, singing or dancing,” Pituch said. “I’m going to do it and give it my all.”
“The Music Man” tells the tale of traveling salesman Harold Hill as he cons the people of River City, Iowa, into buying instruments and uniforms for a boys' band he plans to organize. Hill plots to collect the money and leave town — but that’s before he falls in love with librarian Marian Paroo, who turns the shyster salesman into an honest man.
Along the way, the cast will perform standards such as "Seventy-Six Trombones," "Till There Was You," “Marian the Librarian,” "Goodnight, My Someone" and the showstopper, "Ya Got Trouble."
About 15 ninth- through 12th-graders have been taking Rose Hoffman’s musical theater class for 90 minutes each day during the third quarter. Rehearsals begin soon after the quarter began in January.
Hoffman is the musical’s production manager, music instructor Jackson Froman is director, Sharon Sitter is choreographer and Rhonda Stull is seamstress.
Brooke Kimmy, a 2014 Union City graduate who is a freshman at Edinboro University is assistant director. Kimmy has been involved in musicals in Union City since she was in fifth grade and relishes her new role.
“Being here to help the other students is one of the best experiences I’ve had, in or out of school,” Kimmy said. “We’ve got kids that play sports, we’ve got artsy kids and kids that are into math and science. It doesn’t matter that everybody’s different. We’re all working together to create an entertaining show for other people.”
And its not all singing and dancing. Class members build the sets and help with costumes, choreography and anything else that needs to be done.
“I learned how to use a power drill last year,” said Pituch, a member of the class that produced “State Fair.”
Senior Jeremiah Fuller enrolled at Union City in his junior year after attending McDowell High School in Millcreek Township, where he was involved with theater. Fuller and Pituch were contenders for the role of Harold Hill. When Pituch got the part, Fuller was offered the role of Hill’s pal, Marcellus Washburn.
“It’s easy to see they made the right choice,” Fuller said. “The great chemistry works for the entire show.”
For Fuller, being on stage is liberating.
“It’s like a second home to me. It lets me be myself,” he said.
The experience also unites students who otherwise may be strangers, Fuller added.
“I love how you can take a group of kids who may not be familiar with each other and throw them together,” he said. “Watching them become a family is something special to witness.”
Senior Brittanie Sabol plays the mayor’s daughter, Zaneeta Shinn, and gets to do what she loves best — dance. She dances a solo during “Shipoopi.”
“It’s nerve-racking, but it’s so much fun,” Sabol said. “If you can do that in front of all those people, you can do anything.”
That life lesson could pay off for Sabol — she’s joining the U.S. Force in June to train in security forces.
“I’ll need a lot of confidence to become a military cop,” she said. “I’ll need patience to know what to do and when to do it.”
Kimmy expects “The Music Man” to hit all the high notes.
“My hope is the audience has a good time,” Kimmy said. “If the audience has fun — if they laugh, if they cry — it will be a good experience. The whole reason for this class is to have fun together.”
Tickets are $5 and are available in the school office and will be sold at the door.