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Miracles multiply for perogy supper musical

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A plateful of potato-stuffed dumplings served up with catchy tunes and a bit of humour is heating up into a favourite menu item for Ukrainian Catholics and other Catholic churches across the country.

The Perogy Supper Miracle, the hour-long musical comedy about a church fundraising supper written by Winnipeg musician and composer Danny Schur, is about to tantalize and entice audiences in Sudbury, Burlington, Ottawa, Calgary and Prince Albert in the next months.

"Within the show, there are some beautiful miracles," says Schur, who is currently in pre-production for the movie adaption of his musical Strike!

"From the entertainment point of view, this little thing that wasn't supposed to be anything like it's become, has miraculously become this hit."

Schur says he's surprised and pleased that The Perogy Supper Miracle has attracted enquiries from churches all over North America since its Winnipeg premiere on Nov. 6.

Intended to be a one-off fundraiser for his home parish, Holy Family Ukrainian Catholic Church, Schur realizes this musical about perogies may stay on his already full plate for the foreseeable future. The original cast, including Rev. Mark Gnutel, the former priest at Holy Family who plays himself, reprises their roles for a second Winnipeg show next month.

That performance on Saturday, Feb. 5 at Holy Eucharist Hall will raise funds for Gnutel's current parish, St. Anne Ukrainian Catholic Church in North Kildonan.

"I'm pleased about The Perogy Supper Miracle because it's a chance to do creative fundraising and creative ministry and it's a good musical,' says Gnutel, who portrays a priest named Father Mark experiencing a doubts and questions about his work while attempting to recruit enough volunteers to keep his parish's perogy dinners operating.

One of the many miracles in the musical is how the main character loses and rediscovers his faith, says Bishop Bryan Bayda, who played the priest's role in a Saskatoon production co-ordinated by Schur's sister, Carolyn, on Nov. 14.

"Every time there's an act of faith, there can be a crisis of faith. That's what faith is about: trusting in God," says Bayda, bishop of the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of Saskatoon.

"(The musical) has a nice mix of quirky and a nice story of conversion."

On a personal level, Gnutel says acting in the music connected him with friends in the cast he'd known two decades earlier, as well as bringing out the previously dormant showmanship side of his character.

"It uses some gifts and talents that I've always had, but I've been bashful about showing," says Gnutel, who says he's open to other offers to perform the role named after him.

Bayda says another miracle is how this fundraising musical about church fundraisers portrays the everyday lives of church folk while poking a little fun along the way.

"Danny really captured some essential things about our church," says Bayda. "Certainly perogy suppers are a common issue."

Schur says he knew Ukrainian Catholics would like the musical, but he's surprised other traditions have embraced it, proving to him that he's come up with a tasty combo that appeals to people of many backgrounds, including Ukrainian Orthodox and Roman Catholics.

"Many people have commented to me that the humour in the PSM has links to Jewish comedy. I consider myself a latter-day mensch and have very much absorbed the Fiddler on the Roof comedy ethic, so I take that as a compliment," says Schur, who likens the main character in PSM to a modern-day Tevye. And the fact that he can entertain folks who might never buy tickets to see his other work, including Strike! or his upcoming collaboration with playwright Rick Chafe on a musical about Louis Riel, is just another miracle among the many in The Perogy Supper Miracle.

"I would say 80 per cent of people who will see this would never go to MTC or PTE," says Schur. "As the writer, there's nothing so gratifying as making people laugh."

brenda@suderman.com

Another plate of perogies on the menu for Winnipeg

 

The original cast of The Perogy Supper Miracle takes to the stage 7 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 5, at Holy Eucharist Parish Hall, 460 Munroe Ave., to raise funds for St. Anne Ukrainian Catholic Church. Tickets for dinner and the show are $75. Call 667-9588 for more information, or click on the picture of the perogy at www.stanneucc.com.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 8, 2011 H13

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