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'Italian Serenade' welcomes all to a free performance

Anyone looking to enjoy professional musical theater free of charge just has to show up tonight at Niagara Falls High School's Performing Arts Center.

School Superintendent Carmen A. Granto has arranged for Buffalo's Alleyway Theatre to put on its original musical, "Italian Serenade," at 7:30 p.m. for the entire community.

"Everyone's welcome to attend for free," said Margaret Kaiser, executive director of the Arts in Education Institute of Western New York. The organization has an office at the high school, at 4455 Porter Road.

"It's part of Mr. Granto's open-door policy. He wants this beautiful facility to be part of the community, and he wants to be sure the community knows this is part of who they are," Kaiser said.

Talk about a cheap date. Tickets normally cost $24.

The production premiered in Rockwell Hall at Buffalo State College earlier this fall and had a recent stint in Alleyway Theatre in Buffalo. The production is about a young man from a fictitious Italian village, and much of the action takes place in Italy, Kaiser said.

Villagglo D'Montagna decides he wants to come to the United States to make his way in the world. The production traces what he goes through to get here and settle in Buffalo.

The play was written by Neal Radice, Alleyway founder and executive director, on a commission from the Federation of Italian-American Societies of Western New York. It is designed to reflect the immigrant experience.

Kaiser said part of the musical's charm is that it uses Italian family names, businesses and locations that are common to the history of Buffalo.

For the Niagara Falls performance, the show will substitute names that are more common to the Niagara Falls immigrant experience, Kaiser said.

"So if you're talking about a bakery, instead of whatever it was in the original play, it will now be DiCamillo," she said. "If it's a funeral parlor that's well-known in Buffalo, it would be Spallino-Colucci for the Niagara Falls performance. Names like Antonacci, Maglie, Mazza and Petrozzi may be used. They are trying to personalize this for the local community."

During the past couple of years, Kaiser said, Granto has wanted to celebrate the different ethnic groups that helped create Niagara Falls and bring performances and programs to the high school that will resonate in the community.

It's part of the district's "Community Family Series," and this time it's focused on the Italian community, of which the superintendent is a part.

Kaiser said she went to see "Italian Serenade" after Granto asked her if she might do something to reflect the city's Italian-American community this year.

"I think this community, all of it, will really love it," she said.

As Radice notes in the description of the show, it's "a warn and lively new musical that celebrates the hopes and heartaches, failures and glorious victories of the great immigration that led so many Italians -- and other ethnic families -- to call Western New York home."

e-mail: pwestmoore@buffnews.com

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