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Saint Viator High School Celebrates 50 Years of Musicals

January 28, 2016

When the cast of Music Man takes the stage this weekend, it will signal a major Zaneetamilestone in the school’s history: 50 years of mounting high quality musicals, complete with two separate casts, a pit orchestra and a full technical crew.

Kate Costello, a 1970 graduate of Sacred Heart of Mary, who first performed in the musical in 1968 — Music Man — and went on to major in theater at Northwestern and ultimately return to Saint Viator to teach, directs the show.

Kate Costello, second from left, plays Maud Dunlop in the 1968 production of Music Man

Kate Costello, second from left, plays Maud Dunlop in the 1968 production of Music Man

While she could have chosen to stage an encore of the very first show, Annie Get Your Gun, she opted instead for Music Man, for its memorable characters, lively ensemble scenes and of course, its music.

“It’s perfect,” Costello says, “since it’s about how the arts and music can transform a community.”

Promoting experiences in the fine arts has been a hallmark of a Viatorian education since the opening of Saint Viator High School in 1961. Included in the school’s dedication booklet were nine objectives, ranging from faith formation to academics. Its last pillar was to “promote experiences in art, music and drama.”HaroldHill

School historians point to Fr. Paul Gilgallon as one of the driving forces of the fine arts program, and the musical. As the school’s first dean of discipline, he started the school’s choral program and in 1967 approached a parent about directing a musical.

That parent was J.J. Stamm, who was teaching drama and directing musicals at Taft High School in Chicago. He would go on to direct the next 17 musicals at Saint Viator, and set the standard for the school’s first-rate productions.

J.J. Stamm, left, directs students in Saint Viator's first musical in 1967

J.J. Stamm, left, directs students in Saint Viator’s first musical in 1967

In her director’s notes in the program, Costello credits students — all 230 of them —faculty, staff members, parents, loyal alumni and supporters with coming together to put on the show.  She ends by quoting Marian Paroo, the leading lady in Music Man, who sums up her excitement about music re-energizing their village.

“Suddenly,” Marian says, “there were things to do, things to be proud of, and people to go out of your way for.”

The Viatorian Community couldn’t agree more.