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St. Gabriel's Annual St. Patrick's Day Play A Neighborhood Tradition

By Casey Cora | March 14, 2013 9:10am

CANARYVILLE — For the past 80 years, members of the school community at St. Gabriel have volunteered their writing, acting and dancing chops for the school's annual St. Patrick’s Day play.

“It’s a real tradition that gets great support every year. It’s a really unique play. We write it ourselves and perform it ourselves,” director Michelle Goga said. “The set is designed by people in neighborhood. The curtains are designed by people in the neighborhood. We’re like this little gem on the South Side.”

The tradition stretches back to at least the 1930s, school officials said. In recent years, the performances have brought in about $30,000 annually — money that’s sent to the parish and school.

"Just like any other Catholic church, you have to replace the boiler or the roof or whatever," said Jack Bracken, 65, a St. Gabe's grad and the play's musical director. "We have to do this to so the church remains liquid."

This year’s production, titled “Thanks to Viewers Like You,” is based on a phone-a-thon. The format paves the way for multiple song-and-dance numbers.

The final performance takes place at 8 p.m. Saturday at the school’s auditorium, 4500 S. Wallace St. Tickets cost $25 and can be bought by calling or emailing Debbie Mangan at 773-517-9866 or deb924@yahoo.com. Tickets can also be bought at the door.

Guests can expect singing and dancing with a decidedly South Side bend — performances by “Irish floor walkers” in place of tight-rope walkers, a teenage chorus belting out Journey and cameos by Jake and Elwood Blues.

"Back in the day it was all Irish dancing. We’re a little more updated with the acts and music that we do now. We have a little Irish to identify with the heritage we have at St. Gabriel's but the music and comedy we write is more up to date," Bracken said.

It’s the end result of six months worth of writing and rehearsing.

"This is not a school play. These are very very good actors. They’re very very good at what they do," Bracken said.