Westmoreland Night of the Stars high school musical showcase returns

Apr. 27—In 2019, John Noble said he was stepping away from Westmoreland Night of the Stars, the annual high school musical showcase he founded in 1997.

After that year's production, the Hempfield attorney and performer announced that he was turning the reins over to his daughter, Elly Noble Carr, who also is a professional actor.

Turns out that Noble is back to producing the showcase, now in its 24th year, which is returning to The Palace Theatre in Greensburg after a two-year pandemic hiatus.

Since the last Night of the Stars, Carr has become the mother of two young sons and doesn't have time to organize and run the event.

"No one else is crazy enough to take this on, and I couldn't let Night of the Stars die after 23 years," Noble said.

Featuring 12 area high schools and two home-school theater troupes, the performances are scheduled for 6:45 p.m. May 4 and 5 in the theater at 21 W. Otterman St.

Students from six county high schools and one home-school group will perform each night, offering "best of" songs and snippets from their spring musicals. Each set of performers gets 15 minutes on stage.

The May 4 schedule includes: "The Drowsy Chaperone," Burrell; "Working," Derry Area; "Rock of Ages: High School Edition," Jeannette; "Newsies," Valley; "Fiddler on the Roof," Penn Trafford; "Shrek," Kiski Area; and "Little Shop of Horrors," Monessen Junior/Senior.

The May 5 performances are: "Frozen Jr.," Greensburg Salem Middle School; "Mamma Mia," Greensburg Central Catholic; "Mamma Mia," Hempfield Area; "Seussical Jr.," Hometown Arts Troupe; "The Little Mermaid," Mt. Pleasant Area; "Snow Queen," Westmoreland Performing Arts Home/Cyber School Theatre Club; and "Bye Bye Birdie," Greater Latrobe.

Starting over

Because of the pandemic, this year's production is "kind of like starting from the beginning," Noble said.

"We have the seniors who were in the show three years ago as freshmen, and we have two classes of kids who have never participated in it — actually, three now with the freshmen," he said. "So they lost a lot."

In preparation for Night of the Stars, Noble attends the musical at every participating school.

"If it's double-cast, I go twice," he said. "What I have observed being in every school's auditorium is the joy and enthusiasm by everyone — students, teachers, musicians, audience members, parents, grandparents — to be doing live theater again.

"It brought me to tears in almost every circumstance just to experience how happy everybody in every auditorium was," he said. "So all the work it takes for me to herd all these cats is worth it."

Being able to perform at The Palace is an invaluable experience for the students, said Kristen Legge, a Night of the Stars alumna and first-year director of the Jeannette High School drama club.

"It's great to do what we do at our high schools, but it's really something different to do it for such a big audience on such a big stage, and also to see what everybody else is doing," said Legge, a 2016 Jeannette graduate and current graduate student at Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

"It's great to be able to see all the talent in the community coming together," she said. "I'm really grateful we're able to give the students that experience this year."

Each school's theater program receives $1,000 and a participation plaque for its auditorium.

The RWS Entertainment Group, whose CEO is Hempfield Area High School and Night of the Stars alumnus Ryan Stana, will award the annual Esther M. Kocevar Scholarship, in memory of Stana's grandmother, to a Night of the Stars senior pursuing an education and career in the performing arts.

In addition, Westmoreland Performing Arts will donate at least one scholarship to its summer camps to each of the participating schools.

A ticket for Night of the Stars is $20. To reserve, call 724-396-2543 or email john@noblemediation.com.

Shirley McMarlin is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Shirley at 724-836-5750, smcmarlin@triblive.com or via Twitter .