Krumich first wrote the production under the title “Saint Wenceslas” to be performed by his student ensemble in Virginia.
When the retired music teacher and his wife Amy relocated to Cooksburg, he started attending shows at the Barrow-Civic Theatre. The quality of the theater productions and local talent here drew his interest back to his composition and script.
“Then I decided to really make it something that could be done by a community theater,” he said. As part of that effort, he wrote additional music and improved the script. He also reached out to his sister Beth Orris, also a retired music teacher and the head of the Venango Chorus, who connected him with people in the area associated with music and theatre productions so he could workshop the concept and strengthen the storytelling.
“It transformed into something,” he said. It also got a new name “Good King Wenceslas.”
When it came time to find a place to perform it, Krumich thought of the Barrow-Civic first. “I wanted to make it something that could be done here,” he said of his goal.
The theater's executive director Zach Covington welcomed the idea and found a time slot that could work for everyone – the 12th day of Christmas.
“I love the idea that it extends the holiday season,” said show director and cast member Shawn Clerkin.
Performances will be at 7:30 p.m. on Jan. 5 and 6 and 2 p.m. on Jan. 7, which is also the day of Orthodox Christmas.
Clerkin describes Krumich’s show as a middle ground between a large-scale production and a religious pageant.“Somewhere in between those two is a community celebration of taking care of those in need.”
The show tells the story of Wenceslas, a Duke of Bohemia in the 900s. Later made famous by the Christmas carol “Good King Wenceslas,” in his time the young man was regarded for his Christian faith and his caring nature toward the poor. Unfortunately, not everyone appreciated those traits, and, as depicted in the musical, his mother and brother plotted against him.
“Everything about that’s true,” Krumich said of the research he did on the fabled “king.”
And to stay in line with the true story of Wenceslas proceeds from the show’s ticket sales, sponsorships and any donations collected will be given to Emmaus Haven, a homeless shelter for men in Venango County.
“Since Wenceslas brought the poor and homeless into the castle... we were trying to think of a place we could help that would help the homeless or poor in our area,” Orris said. “We kicked around a few possibilities. Emmaus Haven is doing good work and honestly needs the money.”
The music from the show is a mixture of historical melodies from the Middle Ages, traditional Christmas tunes and original pieces by Krumich. And the cast is a mixture of theater vets, area musical instructors and stage newbies. “We are a bunch of people doing it for the love of music and the love of theater,” Krumich said of the difficult task of putting on a brand-new show.
“It’s definitely John’s vision,” Clerkin said of the final production of the musical. He called his role in the production less as a director and more as a supporter. “I like that I am facilitating his vision.”
“I’ve been at every rehearsal. I’ve been watching it grow,” Krumich said. “It’s so much work and so much nervous energy for so long… It’s coming together. And that’s what I’m feeling tonight.”
The cast includes
Wenceslas - Caleb Thompson
Drahomira (evil mother) - Rebecca Lopuh
Ludmila (grandmother) - Jamie Bastello
Duke Arnulf - Nelson Thayer
Johanna - Sydney O’Neil
Boleslav (evil brother) - Devin Dulaney
Tunna - Steve Luxbacher
Musicologist - Jenny Jack
Page - Heidi Kosker
Father Paul - Shawn Clerkin
Sister Agatha - Julie Kosker
Storyteller - Jim McDonald
Servants - Hazel Kosker, Sloane DeShong, Abby Rollan, Caylee Bish, and Katie Luxbacher.
Peasant Choir - Aubree Douglass, Heath Godinich, Jason Spence, Emma Barrett, Lizzie Eisenman, Macie Anderson and Juliette Wachob.
Members of the Venango Chorus will also be performing before the start of each show.