Prout-Hendricken arts program celebrates 50th anniversary this Saturday

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This Saturday alumni from The Prout School and Bishop Hendricken High School will gather for The Prout-Hendricken 50th Anniversary Celebration for the Arts.

The event, a fundraiser for the arts programs at the two schools, will be held at The Prout School, 4640 Tower Hill Road, Wakefield from 7 to 10 p.m.

Many of the stars from the years promise to be in attendance.

Event organizer Mike Houle, Hendricken class of 1970, says, "All of us have such fond memories of our time in the band, Metronomes, chorus, and spring musicals. This is a chance to reminisce and appreciate what a magical time that was or all of us."

Fifty years ago, Brother John Neidl of Hendricken and Sr. Lillian Dempsey of Prout initiated the collaborative arts program that lasted almost 20 years. Among the many activities were the award-winning marching band with the Prout Metronomes drill team; joint concerts with music, chorus and dancing; and spring musicals, starting with "The Music Man," which was the first musical ever produced by either school. In some ways, this was the start of the large and successful arts programs that both schools boast today.

It didn't take long for the Prout-Hendricken partnership to make itself noticed. The marching band and Metronomes (drill team from Prout) started doing half-time shows at football games, which was rarely seen in RI and had never been seen at Hendricken.

In their first parade, the 1968 Columbus Day Parade in Providence, they won Best Marching Band and Best Playing Band Awards, with a choreographed routine (again a rare sight in RI) that surprised and delighted the reviewing stand and viewers. They went on to bigger and better successes, such as marching several times at the famous NYC St. Patrick's Day Parade, at the Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington DC, and proudly representing the Ocean State as the only RI unit invited to Jimmy Carter's Inaugural Parade.

After marching season, the band turned to concerts, with dancing from the Metronomes and singing from both schools. The concerts also included smaller groups, such as a wind ensemble, a swing band, a Tijuana Brass tribute, and a folk group.

All of this served as preparation for the biggest event of the year. Prout Hendricken Productions' first show was "The Music Man," directed by Bro. John and produced by Sr. Lillian. Try-outs started early in the year and rehearsals went late in the evening, all guided by Bro. John's motto, "Results. Not Excuses."

The show produced capacity crowds and standing ovations for every performance. In later years, the two schools went on to produce popular and challenging musicals, such as "My Fair Lady", "Fiddler on the Roof", "Man of LaMancha", and many more.

As Houle recalls, the Prout-Hendricken era was an almost magical time for everyone who participated. Brothers, sisters, and cousins from families large and small passed through the program for almost 20 years. Hard work and good times forged lasting friendships and even happy marriages.

“All of it was infused with the values taught by two Catholic high schools. Our memories may get hazier, but we will never forget those special days,” he said.

Many of the graduates of the Prout-Hendricken collaboration have gone on to successful careers in music, theater, TV and films, both professional and amateur.

In 1969, Warwick resident Brian Mulvey played Professor Harold Hill (the male lead) in "The Music Man." He has been involved in the RI theater scene ever since. After graduating from Bishop Hendricken, he went to Rhode Island College, where he earned his bachelor's degree in English and theater. Since then he has become a well-known actor, singer, and director in the Rhode Island theater scene, He has had professional roles with the short-lived (10 years) Ocean State Theater Company. He is now involved with The Community Players in Pawtucket, the oldest community theater in the state. In 2016, he was nominated for the Motif Award for his set design with them, and last year he won the Motif Award for best male lead in community theater. He also met his wife, Erika Koch, at The Community Players. We are pleased that Mulvey will be returning for our celebration, 50 years after he caught the theater bug.

Wally Dunn has been a working actor in New York and across the country for many years, with credits in theater (24 roles), film (8 roles), and television (11 roles). On Broadway, he has played important roles in West Side Story, Spamalot, and Gypsy, among many others. He was a guest star on the hit CBS series, Madam Secretary, and had recurring roles on NBC's long-running Law and Order franchise. He appeared in popular films such as School of Rock, In and Out, The Good Shepard, and others. Wally is an active member of the Actors Equity Assn and has held office in that union. His current role is Rudolf, the head waiter, in the National Touring Company of "Hello Dolly."

Other prominent alums include the following and others:

Maria Day Hyde (aka Maria Day) has been a prominent actor, singer, and teacher in RI for over 30 years. She spent eight summers performing at Theater-by-the-Sea, worked in New York cabarets and was director for Charlie Hall's, "Ocean State Follies" for eleven years. She gives lessons at her own "Day Studios." She is also an Instructor and Guest Artist at the University of Rhode. She recently played Madame Armfeldt in University of Rhode Island Theatre's production of "A Little Night Music" to excellent reviews.

Dan Moretti is a professor at the prestigious Berklee College of Music. He was awarded the 2006 Curriculum Development Award. He is a MacColl-Johnson Fellow, awarded in 2010 for "The Journey," a recording of his original music. Moretti is a saxophonist and flutist, composer, producer, and audio engineer. He has produced and recorded 17 world releases as a leader. His last five CDs have been in the top 40 charts in the United States. He has toured throughout the United States, Europe, Asia, and Africa He has performed and recorded with artists such as Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles, and The Temptations.

Ron Vincent is a popular jazz drummer, percussionist, composer, and producer. Ron is a veteran of the New York City jazz scene. Working often as a sideman, Ron has been on labels such as GRP, Concord and Palmetto records, the latter where he has been producer as well as co-producer for a number of projects. Ron was a member of the Gerry Mulligan Quartet and the Re-Birth of the Cool Tentet from 1989 until Mr. Mulligan's passing in 1996. He recorded four CDs with Mr. Mulligan and has also recorded with Phil Woods, Lee Konitz, Randy Brecker, Bob Brookmeyer, Bill Charlap, John Lewis and Slide Hampton to name a few. Ron has appeared with such notables as Art Farmer, Rob McConnell, Rufus Reid and Dr. Billy Taylor.

Hors d'oeuvres, beer, wine, and other beverages will be served. Raffles will be held for theatre tickets, restaurant gift certificates and other items. Most raffles are valued at $100 or more. Everyone who participated in any aspect of the Prout-Hendricken collaboration is cordially invited.

Admission to the event is $25, although no one will be turned away for inability to pay. Those unable to attend may make a donation. All funds raised will be used to support the arts programs at both schools.

Tickets are available by contacting Heather Picillo at 401-739-3450, Ext. 130. For questions or more information about the 50th anniversary celebration, please contact Mike Houle at mikehoule3@hotmail.com or by phone at (978) 664-6708.  

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