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Good Evening friend!
Sabella unfurls musical splendor
March 17, 2011 Lisa Betz    Rick Myers

Read more by Lisa Betz
The Bluffs were abuzz last week with anticipation for Broadway actor and Gering native Sal Sabella’s homecoming concert to benefit Theatre West, slated for Saturday at the Historic Midwest Theater. Videos and pictures were shared on Facebook and photos of the singer/actor seemed to be everywhere.

On Saturday night, ticket lines were long as music lovers waited with anticipation to take in the journey of Sabella’s career. It all began, as he put it, with Mrs. Propp, his McKinley Elementary music teacher, when she asked him if he’d like to audition for the Platte Valley Children’s Choir. Sabella told the audience Saturday that once the applause hit him, he decided that he “could get used to this.”

Accompanied by Maren Chaloupka, Sabella sang “Just One Person” from the musical, Snoopy, in honor of Mrs. Propp, who was in the audience Saturday night, and he encouraged everyone to live the message in the lyrics:

“If just one person believes in you,
Deep enough, and strong enough, believes in you...
Hard enough, and long enough,
It stands to reason, that someone else will think
"If he can do it, I can do it."

With great humor and considerable charm, Sabella introduced the evening’s musical selections, sharing detail about where and when he had performed each song, all the while thanking the community for his early musical experiences in the Valley, stating that each had been important steps in the pathway to his career as a Broadway musical actor.

One of the more humorous moments was Sabella’s introduction to “The Words Get in the Way,” a song he had sung as a duet at Gering High School under Duane Stukesbary’s direction in the Harmony swing choir. He laughingly told the audience “it was amazing what a little ‘perspective’ will do when interpreting a song.” The crowd was spellbound as he performed with deep emotion a story that tapped into the heart of anyone who had ever been in love, yet found it difficult to express in words.

One of many moving moments of the evening was Sabella’s tribute to his mother, Gloria Sabella. He thanked her for understanding his need to fly and explore after high school, talking about the journey we all must make to test our wings. For him, the journey took him far away from his family and home. Prefaced with an “I love you, mom,” Sabella sang “Corner of the Sky,” from the musical Pippin.

“Rivers belong where they can ramble
Eagles belong where they can fly
I’ve got to be where my spirits can run free
Got to find my corner of the sky…”

After intermission, Sabella’s walk of memories continued, but this time from his professional career and with a new theme of love and relationships. From the tune of “Love I Hear,” from the musical A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, to the heartbreaking, emotional song of “Losing My Mind” from the musical Follies, Sabella took the audience on an emotional journey of newly found love, lost love and finally, the realization of mature, fulfilling love.

The most magnificent performance of the evening was Sabella’s spellbinding “Music of the Night,” from the musical, Phantom of the Opera. Sabella played the title character on a Broadway tour more than 30 times.

With aching beauty, Sabella’s rich vocal styling and emotional depth took the audience’s experience of the music to new levels with the song’s desperate, devastating longing for unattainable love. The audience held its breath as the music faded, not a sound was heard; then thunderous applause brought the house down. Graciously, Sabella bowed to the audience several times, extending his gratitude for all that was given to him by this community.

The Midwest Theater has never been more beautiful and full of love than it was on Saturday night as it celebrated a returning star. Sal Sabella, one of our own, a shining light who hasn’t forgotten his roots, generously gave of himself and of his talent to a community who years ago encouraged him to stretch his wings so that he could fly.

“And when all those people,
Believe in you,
Deep enough, and strong enough,
Believe in you...
Hard enough, and long enough

It stands to reason that you yourself will
Start to see what everybody sees in
You…”

“Just One Person,” from the musical, Snoopy.
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