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'So much fun': Mount Carmel Area to present "Footloose" this weekend

MOUNT CARMEL — The cast of Mount Carmel Area High School’s production of “Footloose” is prepared to cut loose.

After losing a talented group of actors to graduation, this year’s musical is led by a motivated group of upperclassman who rose to the occasion by taking on feature roles of the musical based on the 1980s flick starring Kevin Bacon. Shows will be presented at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday in the Richard Beierschmitt Auditorium.

Several juniors and seniors who spoke just a few lines in last year’s production of “Fiddler on the Roof” are now featured in scenes and serving as role models for the young cast of around 50, which includes students in eighth grade.

Director Melinda Hoopes said it is the first time that every person in a major role had previously played a small role or was part of the ensemble.

"To earn a lead role is nerve-wracking to a newbie," she said of students who are new to the spotlight. "I am so incredibly proud and impressed of the hard work the students have put into their roles. The principal characters have worked so hard and stepped up to be leaders of this group."

Junior Andrew Rooney has advanced his stage career over the years from an ensemble member in “Beauty and the Beast” and Motel in “Fiddler on the Roof” to Ren McCormack, the star of “Footloose,” who moves to a small town where rock music and dancing have been banned.

“This is the highest role than any other role I ever had,” he said prior to a dress rehearsal Thursday evening. “Now, I am carrying the musical, although ever other cast member is just as important as me, but this is the first musical that is focused on (my character).”

Rooney said the songs are challenging for him and other cast members who are required to sing an octave higher. He has practiced by blasting similarly pitched songs in his car and singing along.

The audience will be familiar with many of the tunes, which might make more people aware if a mistake occurs, he noted.

“That’s one challenge,” he said, “to perform them and perform them, because if you make a mistake, everybody is going to know.”

Rooney expressed enthusiasm for how his classmates are handling the song- and dance-heavy musical.

“You definitely want to see this show. We are going to put on probably the best show Mount Carmel has ever seen,” he said.

Senior Katie Flynn will play Renn’s love interest, Ariel, whose friends are Rusty, portrayed by senior Danielle Hooper, Urleen (Alexis Leso) and Wendy Jo (Sydney Marquardt).

“I went from having about four lines (in “Fiddler on the Roof”) to 130 lines, so there’s been a lot of practice,” Flynn said with a laugh. “Thankfully, I have a good long-term memory. It was easy to pick up, but it’s definitely been a challenge.”

Flynn said she will put her own little twist on the character but will stay mostly true to how the movie portrayed her: a promiscuous daughter of a preacher who is searching for attention and respect.

“The hard part about playing Ariel is that I am the exact opposite her,” she said. “I like that (the role) challenges me. It’s a good feeling getting to play someone different than who I really am.”

Hooper said becoming Rusty was relatively simple because she and the character have similar personalities.

“She is literally me,” she said of the character portrayed in the film by Sarah Jessica Parker. “Rusty is talkative and outgoing and doesn’t care what people think of her. So, it was really easy to play her part. I love it.”

Hooper said she played a minor role in “Fiddler on the Roof,” explaining that she had told Hoopes that she wasn’t nearly ready to be at center stage. Her comfort level increased with stage experience, she said.

“In one song in ‘Footloose,’ I have more lines than all of last year,” she said with a smile. “I am so glad I did this; it’s so much fun.”

Although last year’s musical is set some 80 years prior to when “Footloose” takes place, the actresses said there are some similarities between the two shows, such as love, romance and going against tradition. They said the biggest difference between the shows are the outfits.

“This is literally what I wear every day,” Flynn said, pointing down to her jean shorts and cowboy boots.

The seniors praised how far along their castmates have come since practices started months ago.

“We have such a young cast this year,” Flynn said. “At the beginning of the season, it was hard to connect them, but after a few practices we started warming up to each other — and it has just been an amazing experience. I love all of them.”

Students playing feature roles include Miranda Fiamoncini, Jason Patrick, Samantha Darrup, Cole Lupatsky, Ryan Green, Christopher Ehmann, Cierra Clayton, Tyler Barnhardt, MaKenna Watkins, Xander Jones, Ainsley Fegley and Elijah Watkins.

The chorus includes Ayana Aguirre, Kaitlyn Bulliner, Sherrianne Carpenter, Fallon Ellman, Jacey Ellman, Kaitlyn Fernandez, Kassandra Fernandez, Madilyn Herb, Kennadi Joseph, Sierra Kalese, Kelli Lawton, Danielle Lupatsky, Nate Malkoski, Maggie McCracken, Molly McCracken, Gabby McGinley, Chancelyn Musser, Makenzie Pyle, Alexys O’Donnell, Brian Rompallo, Olivia Rusk, Matthew Stellar, Hannah Towey, Elijah Watkins, Cheyenne Williams, Katie Witkoski, Rachel Witkoski, Anthony Wolkoski, Elizabeth Yeager and Mackenzie Zerbe.

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Prominent Civil War author visits Milton

MILTON — The Milton Historical Society’s final lecture of this year’s series featured Jeff Wert, a man familiar to many historians and Civil War buffs.

Wert has authored nine books on the Civil War and his account of the third day at Gettysburg, “Gettysburg — Day Three,” was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. Wert spoke Sunday for well over 100 people gathered in the auditorium at Milton Area High School.

The topic was “Civil War Barons: Businessmen and the Union Cause.”

The topic of Wert’s most recent book, these 19 men — some instantly recognizable, some not so — selected by the author had an impact on the war.

As an introduction, Wert noted many thought the Civil War would be brief. The Union had such an advantage in numbers of men, industry and railroads.

Government, at the time, was much different. Over the roughly 35,000 government employees at the time, 30,000 were employed by the Post Office. The government did not spend much money. Rather, its reliance on private industry was necessary for success.

“It was an eclectic group,” said Wert of those he chose to spotlight. “In those days, government cared about how much money they spent.”

Familiar names included those of Andrew Carnegie, John Deere and Cornelius Vanderbilt.

Others were Gordon McKay, whose McKay Stitching provided a machine that led to the Union purchase of over 10 million boots; or Gail Borden, whose condensed milk was invaluable to Union troops during the war. There was Simon Cameron, a Pennsylvanian who served as President Abraham Lincoln’s secretary of war, and Thomas Scott, another Pennsylvanian who was president of the Pennsylvania Railroad and provided supplies to Union troops.

James Eads was an engineer and, like many of the men on the list, an inventor. Christopher Spencer’s repeating carbine rifle and Cyrus McCormick’s reaper were key to Union success — Spencer’s rifle for obvious reasons and the reaper because as Wert noted, “It released tens of thousands of men (from fields) to the Army.”

Phil Armour was famous for meat preservation and Collis Huntington for railroading. Robert Parrott (ordnance), the Studebaker brothers (wagons), Abram Hewitt (engineer), Edward Squibb (pharmaceuticals), Friedrich Weyerhauser (timber) and Henry Burden (horseshoes) were also discussed.

“These men had to mobilize their businesses,” Wert said. “You can find remarkable individuals at any time. Most of these men were abolitionists and devoted to the Union cause.”

Most of the men were featured two to a chapter, Wert noted. The one exception, with 19 men profiled, was Jay Cooke, an American financier who “revolutionized how America financed wars,” Wert said.

“He sold bonds to ordinary people. He said you’ve got to support the cause.”

Through this, he revolutionized and monetized patriotism. Through his efforts, some $2 billion was raised for the war effort, noted Wert. The war cost the Union about $3.2 billion, he added.

Previous lectures included G. Terry Madonna, political commentator, who in January addressed “Pennsylvania: The Political Climate and What Matters to Voters” and Bruce Teeple, historian and author, in February and “Slavery in Pennsylvania (And How They Got Away With It).”

This was the third year the historical society hosted the lectures and plans are in the works to host another series of lectures next year.

Society members also noted the annual Gov. Pollock Dinner will be held beginning at 6 p.m. with a social hour and 6:30 dinner on Wednesday, April 17 at Wynding Brook Golf Club, Route 405 north of Milton. The program will feature Sandra Tosca, an engineer with PennDOT District 13. The topic of her address will be the Central Susquehanna Valley Thruway and “History, Current Status and Local Impact.”

Plane crashes over past five years show tragedy has been widespread

Where are commercial plane crashes most common?

A look at the past five years of crashes shows that no country or region is especially dangerous for air travel. Tragedy has struck from Russia to Colombia, and for reasons as varied as pilot error, system failure and terrorism.

Here is a summary of the 18 commercial crashes since 2014, based on information from the Aviation Safety Network, the BBC and Washington Post reports.

• March 2014. A Boeing 777 operated by Malaysia Airlines took off in Malaysia, bound for China, but disappeared into the Indian Ocean with 239 aboard. The cause of the crash is unknown.

• July 2014. A Boeing 777 operated by Malaysia Airlines left the Netherlands and never made it to Malaysia. It was shot down over eastern Ukraine, killing all 298 aboard.

• July 2014. An ATR 72 from TransAsia Airways, scheduled to fly from Taiwan to Penghu Island, crashed into a building as it approached the airport, killing 48 people. Noncompliance with standard operating procedure was blamed.

• July 2014. A malfunctioning anti-icing system was blamed for the Mali crash of a McDonnell Douglas MD-83 flown by Air Algerie. All 116 on board, who were headed from Burkina Faso to Algeria, were killed.

• December 2014. An Airbus A320 operated by Indonesia AirAsia and headed to Singapore from Indonesia went down over the Java Sea. Crew miscommunication was a contributing factor to the crash, which killed 162 people.

• March 2015. An Airbus A320 operated by Germanwings, headed from Spain to Germany, crashed into the French Alps, killing all 150 people aboard. The pilot was believed to be suicidal, intentionally downing the plane.

• August 2015. An ATR 42-300 operated by Trigana Air Service and traveling in Indonesia crashed, killing 54. Investigators determined that crew members did not adhere to standard approach procedure while going over mountainous terrain.

• October 2015. An Airbus A321, operated by Kogalymavia and traveling from Egypt to St. Petersburg, was bombed over the Sinai Peninsula, killing 224 people.

• March 2016. Adverse weather was blamed for the crash of a FlyDubai Boeing 737 traveling from the United Arab Emirates to Russia; 62 people were killed.

• May 2016. An EgyptAir Airbus A320 headed to Egypt from France crashed into the Mediterranean Sea after the pilot lost control of the plane; 66 people were killed.

• November 2016. An Avro RJ85 operated by LaMia carrying a Brazilian soccer team from Bolivia to Colombia crashed; 71 of the 77 people on board died. A fuel shortage contributed to the crash.

• December 2016. Engine failure was to blame for the crash of an ATR 42-500 operated by Pakistan International Airlines. Forty-eight people died.

• February 2018. An Antonov An-148 operated by Saratov Airlines crashed shortly after taking off from Moscow, killing 71 people. The crash was caused by loss of control of the plane.

• February 2018. An ATR 72 flown by Aseman Airlines went down in Iran, killing 66 people. Crew errors and bad weather were contributing factors.

• March 2018. A Bombardier Dash operated by US-Bangla crashed in Nepal. The pilot’s lack of “emotional stability” is blamed for the crash.

• May 2018. A Boeing 737 leased by Cubana, Cuba’s national airline, crashed, killing 112. The company that owned the plane blamed pilot error.

• October 2018. A Lion Air Boeing 737 Max crashed in Indonesia with 189 people aboard. Investigators blamed a malfunctioning sensor.

• March 2019. An Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 MAX 8, flying from Ethiopia to Nigeria, went down shortly after takeoff. All 157 people on board died. An investigation has been launched.