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Rachelle Rak Alumni Spotlight

Alumni Spotlight

Hello. My name is Rachelle Rak. I graduated from Canevin High School in 1988. It was an era of Guns n Roses, John Cougar, Flashdance and Footloose. The good old days. I loved Growing up in Pittsburgh and going to St. Margaret’s grade school and then feeling the excitement to attend Canevin High School. My sister Renay Rak attended Canevin before me and it was some of her most precious memories. I was never a great student as I was always distracted by my passion for the arts. I was at the time a dancer who could sing. I saw Liza Minelli when I was 14 years old at Caesars Palace in Atlantic City and I knew that show business was my calling. During my senior year at Canevin a lot of exciting things happened. I was on the Basketball team, and I was the captain of the Crusettes under the direction of Sr. Judith Warden, being a Crusette was hard work for those of you who knew Judy, I know you understand. It was the kind of work I was very used to as a dancer and I wanted our team to look like professionals. That team worked so hard in 1988. Hi ladies. I can still remember the feeling of marching to that cadence even now. Some of you may not know my story so, here goes. I was cast in the 1988 Canevin High School play & “Working”. I was already working as a professional performer for Don Brockett Productions (Chef Brockett from Mr. Rogers Neighborhood) I was also performing at a theater in Butler, PA in the musical “Cabaret” as Sally Bowles, I was already starting to live that dream of being like Liza Minelli who starred in the film. Let’s just say I was busy. I missed a few rehearsals for the school musical and by some miscommunication I was not given permission to miss one particular rehearsal and so the school decided I should not be in the play. Hmmm. Was this the exact moment I needed to understand what the next thirty years would be like? Who knows, but at that time I will tell you I did not see it that way. We all have to learn how to handle disappoint and this was a big one for me. However, I stayed focused on my senior year, and I was planning to move to New York. One Sunday in April my aunt Arlene called me and said she had heard there was an audition for “Cats” coming to The Benedum Center looking for new talent and I should go. I was 17 years old and just had the biggest disappointment of my life and what better way to get through it then to just jump at the opportunity. I also wanted to see if I could compete with the Pointe Park students. I went to the ‘Cats’ audition and I stayed all day and was called back for the next round. My picture somehow ended up in the Pittsburgh Press probably because I was so young, and I was one of the few who made it to the very end. The next morning, I received the first phone call offering me the national tour of “Cats”. How can I be the one they picked out of all that talent? God, destiny, hard work, fate? Then, reality set in. How can I leave Canevin? It was April and we didn’t graduate for another 6 weeks. The only thing I could think to do was call Sr. Judy and ask her for her help and guidance. She was there for me. The principal and teachers decided that I could get the average grade from the year of work, and I could leave school and go on the road with “Cats” and come back and graduate if I wrote a paper about my experience. I wish I had a copy of that paper. I went home, packed up and left everything behind for my dream. I forgot about the play quickly although I still remember that sting, but this was my destiny, I was literally “Working” in show business.

 

I didn’t go to College, I went to “Cats” are still words I live by. I had a dream, and I had a plan and when God wants to change that plan and put in you in a new path that is exactly what happens. The “Cats” tour was the first of many tours for me. The “Cats” tour ended just 4 months later I found myself back in Pittsburgh teaching dancing for my mom at the Rosalene Kenneth Dance Studio and flying to New York for any auditions I could. I had relatives in Long Island Dolores Buldrini was an opera singer and her husband Fred played the violin for Frank Sinatra for forty years and was now working on the Phantom of the Opera. They would let me come and stay while I was taking class and auditioning. The next big break, another Andrew Lloyd Webber show “Starlight Express”, the roller-skating musical. A pop rock musical that needed a quadruple threat. I was up for the challenge and somehow my mom found me a skate coach. I still can’t figure out how, no internet, no google, just the yellow pages. There I was in south park learning how to skate properly. I was cast as Ashley the smoking car, (This show was based on “The Little Engine That Could” and all of the characters were trains) Andrea McCardle had formerly played that role on Broadway and those were big shoes to fill. I toured the US for over a year and then i was asked to change roles and play the lead role of Pearl in German company of Starlight. The entire show was sung in German. I didn’t speak German, but they didn’t care. They told me that I would learn every lyric in German phonetically and that I would understand exactly what I as saying. So, once again I packed up and said goodbye and moved to Bochum Germany. I learned the show and I loved it. I sang with great pride in German trying to make sure that the German audience could understand me, it was one of the highlights of my young career and I also made some lifelong friends. I still sing the songs now for my daughter.

 

 

There are so many details that I could share with you about my career, but I will jump ahead and let you know what I am working on right now. I am the Associate Choreographer for the new upcoming musical “Boop” based on the cartoon icon Betty Boop. This show will open on Broadway in the spring of 2025. Tony award winner Jerry Mitchell is the Director/Choreographer. I worked with Jerry on “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels and “Catch Me If You Can” as a performer and after showing interest in choreography for many years he finally said to me. ” Rak”I think I have the show for you. That was two years ago. Music by David Foster, Lyrics, Susan Birkenhead and Book, Bob Martin, a star-studded creative team. and an incredible cast and crew. “Boop” will open on Broadway in 2025 and I hope my Pittsburgh friends and classmates will come and see it. My resume has a wonderful list of incredible musicals, but the one that put me on the map was “Fosse”. I walked into rehearsal with the legends Ann Reinking and Gwen Verdon ready to rehearse, I had never done a Fosse class or workshop and I had no idea how I got to this room with these dancers. This was so intimidating, but I reminded myself, I went to The Rosalene Kenneth School of Dance and I was from Banksville and I could take on the world. Haha. As time went on the powers that be could see how much work I was putting in to catch up to learn one of the most difficult styles ever conceived. I was only in 3 numbers in 3 and a half hours, and I thought for sure I would be let go before we ever made it to Broadway., We were in L.A and the stage manager told me that the creatives wanted to hear me sing to opening song of the show “Life is just a Bowl of Cherries”. I sang that song and because of that day I became the understudy for the star of the show, Valerie Pettiford. This was the beginning of a long and glorious career that went by like a blink of an eye. I had a lot of good fortune in show business, but there are pivotal moments that could change your life forever, it was 2007 and I was in the running for the revival of “A Chorus Line”.The role of Sheila was up for grabs. I wanted it. This is the only time in my life that during the auditioning for a show they were make a documentary of the audition process. They filmed everything with our permission. It’s called “Every Little Step: The Making of A Chorus Line”. I suggest you watch it. It is a great documentary that gives some insight to what it’s like to audition for a musical. I got to watch my story on the big screen after living it. I won’t give it away but, it changed my path forever. I did not get that job. I was devastated. You can’t really show how much it all hurts. You see, I was trained to keep smiling and keep going and that you have to move on and find the net best opportunity and change your focus. I couldn’t seem to do it like I had done in the past, so, I returned to Pittsburgh, the hometown girl needed to spend some time out of the hustle of New York and regroup It took me a while but it worked. I was cast in an off- Broadway musical called “Sessions” opposite Robert Newman. While working on this show I started to write songs and record music, make music videos, and remember the artist I was really meant to be. I stopped looking for that one big break and I truly started to believe in myself and do the work. More work. You see, the work never ends there is always room for growth. Doors kept opening and this led me to “Catch Me If You Can” “The Jack Cole Project”, “Pippin”, and the Flashdance” tour. In the 80’s that movie changed my life and to be asked to play one of the principal roles in this show was the chance of a lifetime. We opened in the city where it all happened. Pittsburgh.

 

 

I was finally home and had the opportunity to share our show with my friends and family. It was incredible. I was doing a Vlog for Broadway.com on tour called “I Love Rak -n – Roll” and Abby Lee Miller came to the opening night. She appeared on my Vlog and told a story about seeing me as the lead in “Fosse”. My producers wanted me to be a guest choreographer on Dance Moms and they made it happen. I was a guest on Dance Moms and from the moment it aired I was approached to interview to be the new judge on Abby’s Ultimate Dance Competition on Lifetime. The rest is history. My mother is Rosalene Rak (Kenneth) and my father’s name Peter Kenneth Rak, he passed away in 2007. My mother had a dance studio for over 52 years before women had careers or even credit cards. She set the tone for what kind of woman I wanted to become. There were many Rosalene Kenneth Dancers that shared memories as a Canevin Crusette. I loved my time in Canevin, The basketball team, the musicals, and the people. I loved my English teacher Mr. Fazio, he used to call me Mrs. Benedum. How did he know? Sr. Judy continued to follow and support my career for decades. The wonderful thing about life is the memories you share and the people you meet. I traveled far and wide from the halls of Canevin High School and I never forgot where I came from because I love Pittsburgh and my forever friends. My life is growing and changing in the best ways. I have a 9-year-old daughter, a wonderful husband, my stepson at Penn State and my mother lives with us here in New Jersey. I am truly blessed. I am a performer, choreographer, teacher, mentor, writer but more than anything I am a human who carries God close to her heart. I hope and wish great things for the new Bishop Canevin students.

 

Hey future Crusaders!

 

School's almost out and we know you'll want fun activities to add to your summer agenda... So what better way to spend your summer than with Bishop Canevin's Musical Theater and the Boys and Girls Basketball & Soccer Teams? We have a wonderful line-up of camps for students to pursue their passions and meet new friends! So REGISTER TODAY for Bishop Canevin's summer camps and secure a spot! 

 

 

Grade levels:

B&G Musical Theater: 5th-8th grade

B&G Soccer: 3-8th grade

Boys Basketball: 4-8th grade

Girls Basketball: 5-8th grade

 

 

For more details and registration CLICK HERE!