COAL TOWNSHIP — A crowd of over 100 people packed the Wayside Inn banquet room Thursday evening for a special presentation of 1950’s music and dancing from a special group of 12 young people, seven boys and five girls. The program, presented by A&B Children’s Theater and featuring a number of solo and group acts all by special needs participants, was well received from the audience who showed their approval in the end with a standing ovation.

The idea for the wonderful show came from musical director Patty Zablosky, who runs a local music studio in Trevorton.

“Jesse Kissinger, a young special needs boy who is one of my students, was singing ‘Flying Purple People Eaters’ at my studio and I thought to myself, wouldn’t it be a great idea to give not only him but others like him an opportunity to perform before a live audience?” said Zablosky, who also played the keyboards during the show.

While the program was scheduled to start at 6:30 p.m., the parking lot was already full long before that. Inside hundreds of guests crowded the banquet room, sitting at their tables and waiting for the young performers to take center stage.

“The title of tonight’s show is ‘Reach for the Stars.’ It’s our first year for this type of event and we’re really looking forward to it,” said director Megan Baumgartner.

In watching the show, it was readily apparent that the young participants had practiced long and hard on their singing and dance moves. They performed a total of 8 songs — 4 solos and 4 group numbers.

Chase Hogarty kicked off the program with his own special rendition of Chubby Checker’s “The Twist” while doing his best to get the crowd involved.

The next number was “16 Tons” which the boys performed as a group, dressed up as coal miners with soot-blackened faces, mining helmets and pick axes.

Following that act, “The Peppermint Twist” was performed by Byron Noll-Long and involved some choreography from both he and the rest of the group.

The “Lollipop” song performed by the group’s five girls was next and involved a number of large lollipops as props along with a few more slick dance moves.

Soloist Gabrielle Marrone then sang “Once Upon a Dream,” followed by the evening’s signature moment when Kissinger, dressed as a one-eyed flying “Purple People Eater,” ran throughout the room pretending to eat members of the audience who were seated at various tables while the famous song was sung by the rest of the group.

The outfits worn by the performers were the handiwork of Kim Noll and Jane Zak, who donated her talents for costume design which included high school sweaters and dresses for the girls, Grease varsity jackets for the boys, and a leather Elvis jacket.

Speaking of Elvis, he was next to take the stage, played by young Mario Ouardi, who held a guitar while singing “All Shook Up,” much to the delight of the crowd.

“I worked on this routine for about five weeks and really enjoy performing,” said Ouardi.

The closing number sung by the group was “Stand By Me.”

In addition to those mentioned, other performers included Ahmed Abdou, Grace Carpenter, Rachel Kertsetter, Ashley Knoebel and Zakary Zanella.

“All of these participants are very excited to be here tonight and always give a hundred percent,” assistant director Liz Stevens said.

Others who contributed to the show were scenery creator Hannah Yucha and assistants to the cast, Alicia Lahr and Jennifer Yucha.

“I’m always happy to be dancing,” said Ryan Stimer who is a student and band member at Southern Columbia Area.

“I just want to eat, I’m starving,” said Amy Kistler, who also indicated that she’d like to become an actress.

Based upon Thursday evening’s performance, she may someday get that opportunity.

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