By Maureen Fox
Daily Titan Staff Writer
From honky-tonk to rock â€˜nâ€™ roll, from Broadway tunes to medleys about food, alumni performers and musical theater students had the audience cheering and laughing during Cal State Fullertonâ€™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 yearâ€™s theme, â€œAmerica Sings!: A Celebration of American Music,â€ 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.
â€œItâ€™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,â€ Thomas said. â€œWe have these events â€¦ to inspire that feeling of community throughout the campus.â€
Thomas also said the concert helps showcase the universityâ€™s star theater and dance students.
â€œWe 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,â€ 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 yearâ€™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.
â€œIâ€™m excited about the future of Cal State Fullerton and the quality of education we provide to our students,â€ 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 performersâ€™ red, white and blue costumes.
The concert highlighted performances by the Preeminents, a group of eight students from CSUFâ€™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 bachelorâ€™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 Fridayâ€™s show are the first â€œlineâ€ performers, while 12 other students serve as understudies.
â€œThey have worked diligently to be at â€˜Concertâ€™ level, and it means the world to them to be able to share that work with the CSUF community,â€ 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.
â€œSo much work goes into this show â€¦ but if done well, it looks effortless to the audience â€“ that is our goal,â€ Himmelheber said.
Russell Argenal, 20, a junior health science and dance major at CSUF, thought the alumni performers and Preeminents did a fantastic job. â€œThey were very charismatic, entertaining, full of life, and they just made the whole night amazing,â€ Argenal said.
The concert also featured CSUF musical theater alumna Brooke Ashton, a musical theater actress currently performing in
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 Broadwayâ€™s â€œThe Lion King.â€
Several numbers had the audience laughing and clapping along.
The audience chuckled through Castellano and McNallyâ€™s portrayal of two nerds wishing they were attractive in the song â€œStud and a Babeâ€ from the musical â€œI Love You, Youâ€™re Perfect, Now Change.â€
People cheered for Ashtonâ€™s version of Aretha Franklinâ€™s â€œThink.â€
One of the audienceâ€™s favorite performances was McNallyâ€™s â€œGood Eats,â€ an original medley where she parodied famous songs to sing about food, from the â€œSound of Musicâ€ to the Beatles.
Lyrics such as â€œI believe in crÃ¨me bruleeâ€ 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.