Concert Under the Stars honors Sept. 11 victims

In News

By Maureen Fox
Daily Titan Staff Writer

The Preeminents, a group of Cal State Fullerton’s best musical theater majors, perform at Concert Under the Stars: America Sings! A celebration of American music was the theme of the night, delving out cheers and laughs to a large crowd at CSUF Saturday, Sept. 11. Photos by Todd Barnes.
The Preeminents, a group of Cal State Fullerton’s best musical theater majors, perform at Concert Under the Stars: America Sings! A celebration of American music was the theme of the night, delving out cheers and laughs to a large crowd at CSUF Saturday, Sept. 11. Photos by Todd Barnes.

From honky-tonk to rock ‘n’ roll, from Broadway tunes to medleys about food, alumni performers and musical theater students had the audience cheering and laughing during Cal State Fullerton’s 26th Annual Concert Under the Stars, Friday, Sept. 11.

Over 3,000 people settled into the lawn behind the Kinesiology and Health Science Building to enjoy a night of musical entertainment and fireworks.

This year’s theme, “America Sings!: A Celebration of American Music,” was chosen in honor of the anniversary of Sept. 11, and featured songs from Broadway Musicals, Hollywood movies and more.

Aaron Thomas, an assistant for the Office of the President and a graduate business student at CSUF, has been helping with Concert Under the Stars for the past four years.

Thomas said the university puts on the concert each year to promote the university to the campus and Fullerton communities.

“It’s a way to bring the campus community in and really reiterate that, even in times of tough budget like this, we are still a Titan family,” Thomas said. “We have these events … to inspire that feeling of community throughout the campus.”
Thomas also said the concert helps showcase the university’s star theater and dance students.

“We do want to show off Cal State Fullerton and their abilities to the local community because we feel that the local community is part of our Titan family also,” Thomas said.

Concert Under the Stars requires months of careful planning.

Leticia Stotler, a special events coordinator for the Office of the President, has been planning this year’s concert since January.

Stotler said the event depends on coordination among many people and involves handling a variety of different tasks, including organizing and decorating tables, managing reservations and arranging the fireworks show.

The program began at 7:30 p.m., but visitors arrived as early as 5 p.m. Guests with reservations settled in white folding chairs in front of the stage to enjoy a dinner from CSUF catering.

Free seating was also available on the grass behind the tables, where many guests spread out on blankets and lawn chairs to enjoy picnics and takeout food.

CSUF President Milton Gordon opened the event with a speech thanking donors, alumni, special guests and students for their contributions to the university.

President Milton Gordon observes a moment of silence to mourn the events of Sept. 11, 2001, before the commencement of Concert Under the Stars.
President Milton Gordon observes a moment of silence to mourn the events of Sept. 11, 2001, before the commencement of Concert Under the Stars.

“I’m excited about the future of Cal State Fullerton and the quality of education we provide to our students,” Gordon said in his speech.

Gordon also asked the audience for a moment of silence in memory of Sept. 11.

The patriotic theme was evident throughout the show, from the stars and stripes decorations on stage to the performers’ red, white and blue costumes.

The concert highlighted performances by the Preeminents, a group of eight students from CSUF’s own musical theater program.

Eve Himmelheber, coordinator of the musical theater program, has been directing the Preeminents for the last six years.
Himmelheber said the Preeminents serve as musical ambassadors for the university.
Himmelheber said the bachelor’s degree in musical theater is an extremely competitive program and that the Preeminents have studied rigorously to be part of this group.
The eight students who performed during Friday’s show are the first “line” performers, while 12 other students serve as understudies.
“They have worked diligently to be at ‘Concert’ level, and it means the world to them to be able to share that work with the CSUF community,” Himmelheber stated in an e-mail interview.
The Preeminents prepare a new show each year and debut it at Concert Under the Stars.
The group then tours the show throughout the year as hired entertainment. Himmelheber said they have been rehearsing for the concert since late last fall.
“So much work goes into this show … but if done well, it looks effortless to the audience – that is our goal,” Himmelheber said.
Russell Argenal, 20, a junior health science and dance major at CSUF, thought the alumni performers and Preeminents did a fantastic job. “They were very charismatic, entertaining, full of life, and they just made the whole night amazing,” Argenal said.
The concert also featured CSUF musical theater alumna Brooke Ashton, a musical theater actress currently performing in

The audience of Concert Under the Stars bears witness to a grand display of fireworks after the show Saturday night.
The audience of Concert Under the Stars bears witness to a grand display of fireworks after the show Saturday night.

Las Vegas; Roger Castellano, a theater company director and choreographer; Erin McNally, a soloist and cabaret artist; and Dashaun Young, who currently plays the role of Simba in Broadway’s “The Lion King.”
Several numbers had the audience laughing and clapping along.
The audience chuckled through Castellano and McNally’s portrayal of two nerds wishing they were attractive in the song “Stud and a Babe” from the musical “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change.”
People cheered for Ashton’s version of Aretha Franklin’s “Think.”
One of the audience’s favorite performances was McNally’s “Good Eats,” an original medley where she parodied famous songs to sing about food, from the “Sound of Music” to the Beatles.
Lyrics such as “I believe in crème brulee” had the audience roaring with laughter.
The performers finished with a medley of patriotic songs and received a standing ovation.
The Concert ended with its annual fireworks show, where brilliant colors burst across the sky in time to patriotic music.

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