“I feel the best is yet to come.” – John Noble, Superman
When you take a look at John Noble’s career, you soon begin to realize that he shares several traits with Superman.
First off, like the Man of Steel, he has two separate identities. To Clark Kent’s newspaper reporter guise, he’s one of Westmoreland County’s most successful attorneys. And like Superman’s unrivaled ability to soar through the air, he flies from one theatrical venue to another in the personae of actor, arts supporter and impresario.
As a sign of his versatility, you’re just as likely to find him speaking before the Westmoreland County Bar Association or as a guest vocalist performing with the “…almost Sinatra” Orchestra at the Westmoreland Arts and Heritage Festival.
As an attorney, he’s distinguished himself as one of the region’s top mediators and arbitrators. For his contributions to regional theater, he was the inaugural recipient of “The Heart of the Arts” Award in 2013 presented by the Stage Right! School for the Performing Arts and Professional Theatre Company.
Next year, as he turns 60, Noble, despite his varied accomplishments, has a lot to look forward to. For one, he’ll move into the position of president of the Westmoreland County Bar Association, and he’ll celebrate the 20th anniversary of Night of the Stars, an annual event he founded in 1997 that showcases Westmoreland County High School musical theater programs in 16 school districts as well as home-school students.
Born and raised in DuBois, Noble earned his B. A. from Washington and Jefferson College where he graduated magna cum laude as an economics major. He then obtained his law degree via night school from the Duquesne University School of Law in Pittsburgh while clerking full-time at Meyer Darragh Buckler Bebenek & Eck.. On graduation, he joined the firm as an associate in the Pittsburgh office.
In March, 1983, Noble made Greensburg his home and opened the firm’s Westmoreland County office, allowing the Pittsburgh-based firm to develop its own local roots in the region’s second largest county. At the age of 38, John was one of the youngest partners ever to be elected to the firm’s managing executive committee as well as serving as director of business development and marketing firm-wide.
Primarily due to the extreme demand, John departed his long-time firm in January of 2009 to continue an exclusive Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) practice, offering mediation and arbitration services on a full-time basis throughout Pennsylvania, as well as West Virginia, Ohio, Connecticut, New York, and Maryland.
While interested in theater from an early age, (he’s been hooked ever since he saw “Singing in the Rain” at age five), he was more jock than Thespian in high school and college. At W & J, his fellow athletes selected him the most valuable wrestler on the team in which he served as captain, and he also achieved all-conference status twice in football.
It wasn’t until 1991, however, at the age of 35, that he got involved with theater when his then brother-in-law, Craig Firment, was cast in “The Sound of Music” at the Apple Hill Theater in Delmont.
“Craig encouraged me to audition for a role in “Little Shop of Horrors,” Noble said. “During my try-out, the director of ‘The Sound of Music’ heard me and phoned to see if I’d take on the role of Captain von Trapp because she’d just fired the actor assigned the role. It was my very first singing role, and I had a lot of catching up to do.”
During the show he befriended the two alternate casts of children playing the von Trapp family. Later, when they asked him to see them in subsequent musical productions at their high schools, he landed on the concept for “Night of the Stars.”
“The event is a show by kids for kids and their families,” said Noble, who debuted the first performance with seven school districts in 1997. “It’s really a celebration of high school musical theater.”
Currently, each of the 16 school districts plus the home schoolers gets to perform a segment of their musical on stage at the Palace Theatre in Greensburg. All of the performers sit in the balcony and take turns on stage. After their performance, they return to the balcony to cheer each other on.
Unlike similar shows in the Pittsburgh area such as the Mancini and Gene Kelly Awards, with few winners and many losers, Night of the Stars is non-competitive. All of the proceeds from the ticket sales of the sell-out evening go to the school districts to support their musical theater programs. Since 1997, 500 to 600 students have been involved in the event each year, which translates into a total of more than 12,000 students.
Noble emcees the show in which five schools perform in each of three acts with a house band entertaining the audience during the intermissions. For the finale, Noble joins all the students on stage for a rousing rendition of “Do You Hear the People Sing” from “Les Miserables,” followed by “Season of Love and a balloon drop.
“At the end, there are many teary eyes on stage and in the audience,” Noble said.
Since his theatrical debut at Apple Hill, Noble has performed the character of Daddy Warbucks three times, Captain von Trapp four times and has been in 50 productions at Stage Right alone. If you add in other theater productions and the benefits he does, the total exceeds 100.
Incredibly, Noble also sees each high school musical each year in all the county’s 16 school districts, where he often visits the cast backstage. He also sometimes attends rehearsals and posts on Facebook which school he plans to visit and when.
Calling himself an efficient time manager, Noble admits he can’t sit still.
“When I’m on my treadmill working out each day, I might be writing an article for a legal publication or reading mediation statements at the same time,” he said. “As a lawyer, I deal with great loss. Everyday is an improv theater of people with lawyers arguing against one another with me in the middle trying to resolve differences as a mediator. That’s why it’s great to end my day with comedy, dance and musical theater. I don’t say that I need it, but I am drawn to it.”
The father if five, Noble seems to have inspired some of his own children to follow in his footsteps. Daughter, Elly, is living in New York as an Equity actress, and son Alex just finished a role at Pittsburgh Public Theater’s production of “My Fair Lady.”
An inveterate Sinatra fan since he saw Ol’ Blue Eyes in the film “Guys and Dolls,” he’s looking forward to performing in a Sinatra tribute at both the Monroeville Convention Center and the Performing Arts Center at Seton Hill University in Greensburg in time for Sinatra’s 100th birthday on December 12.
“As I approach my 60th year next year, I feel the best is yet to come,” he said.
This year’s Night of the Stars event is scheduled for at 6:45 on May 6 at the Palace Theatre in Greensburg.. For tickets ($20), email Noble at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Story by Dave Zuchowski for Pennsylvania Bridges