On — and on — with the show

Plymouth High School celebrates performing arts, Herb Stoltenberg and 50 years of musicals


PLYMOUTH HIGH SCHOOL spring musical director Herb Stoltenberg poses on the school auditorium balcony, with the cast and audience of “42nd Street” - and the stage that now bears his name - in the background. — Photo by Peter Hernandez of mp2 Productions LLC PLYMOUTH HIGH SCHOOL spring musical director Herb Stoltenberg poses on the school auditorium balcony, with the cast and audience of “42nd Street” - and the stage that now bears his name - in the background. — Photo by Peter Hernandez of mp2 Productions LLC Plymouth High School recently celebrated its performing arts and the 50th musical directed by Herb Stoltenberg.

Each performance of this year's musical, “42nd Street,”featured a chance for alumni and community members to look at past programs and other historical displays. During a special ceremony after the Saturday performance, the Herb Stoltenberg Performing Arts Stage was dedicated inside the Acuity Auditorium at the school.

“One man has been a part of 50 musicals for 50 years, and that is our director, Herb Stoltenberg,” said PHS English teacher Brad Feick, who directs One-Act with Stoltenberg and served as emcee for the evening.

The Plymouth School District Board of Education voted in December to name the stage in honor of Stoltenberg, longtime teacher and director, in recognition of the influence he has had on generations of students.

Many of those students were in attendance for the dedication ceremony, including about 20 members of the 1969 cast of “My Fair Lady,” the first musical directed by Stoltenberg.

Keith Abler, who played Henry Higgins in that production, spoke during the ceremony, noting that Stoltenberg was a fresh face in 1969. “He doesn't look any different now,” he said. “He's the Dick Clark of high school teachers.”

Abler said the honor is a well-deserved one, a sentiment echoed by Brian Counselman, who played Curly McLain in the 2002 production of “Oklahoma!”

Counselman said he thinks about Stoltenberg most nights as he puts his girls to bed and they ask him to sing “Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin’” from “Oklahoma!”

Stoltenberg always encouraged students to take a risk and have their moment, Counselman said. “This room is full of people who had their moments,” he said. “Tonight I couldn't be more proud that, after 50 years, Herb Stoltenberg gets his moment.”

Katie Pocian, Peggy Sawyer in this year's “42nd Street,” said Stoltenberg always is available with enthusiasm, encouragement and sound advice.

“The impact he's made on this community cannot be overstated,” she said. “We thank you for never giving up on us. We hope we made you proud.”

Stoltenberg's three sons — all of whom work in theater against their parents' advice — also spoke to those gathered.

Tim Stoltenberg, an actor, noted that his father has seen 50 opening nights, 50 closing nights, and 50 casts. “For 50 years you have supported students,” he said.

Paul Stoltenberg, a theater engineer, noted: “You don't do the same thing for 50 years if you don't have a true deep-down love for what you're doing.”

Andy Stoltenberg, a high school theater director, said he considers himself lucky to not have fallen far from the tree. “The Herb Experience is that infectious energy, that confi- dence he instill in us,” he said.

Herb Stoltenberg also addressed the nearly full theater, which gave him several standing ovations. “I'm humbled,” he said. “Speechless. Humbled.”

He quickly noted that he co-directed 50 musicals, and thanked those who worked with him over the years, including former teachers Bob Stoll, Ernie Broeniman, Mike Schultz, Carl Knapp, and Eileen Brooks; choreographer Laurie Schmitt, theater manager Gary Kaiser; and current teachers Janet Newton, Jason Sebranek and Amanda Smith.

Stoltenberg also thanked the 50 casts with which he's worked — and their parents. He also recognized the Plymouth Arts Center and a community that obviously cares about the arts, and listed many of the opportunities Plymouth students have to be on stage. “All these groups use these facilities because the performing arts are so vital to life,” he said.

Besides, he notes, “As Henry Higgins said in ‘My Fair Lady,’ ‘I've grown accustomed to this


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