WCU holds Rogers and Hammerstein Gala

It was another rainy day on Sunday, Jan. 24, when the perfect thing to do was be an audience member at the “Rodgers and Hammerstein Gala – A Celebration of their Greatest Songs” at FPAC. Western Carolina’s musical theatre program put on a lively show dedicated to Richard Rogers and Oscar Hammerstein, two reputable playwrights and musical composers. All proceeds were given to musical theatre student scholarships.

The show featured songs from six major musicals, including “The King and I,” “Oklahoma,” and “The Sound of Music.” In most Broadway shows, the orchestra is located in the pit below the stage. During the Gala, the orchestra was front and center on stage allowing the audience to see a new perspective, to watch new players in a musical. Bradley Martin conducted a 51-piece orchestra, whose music filled with the FPAC and brought the “hills alive.”

The singing was above and beyond what one expects from students, however the show moved a little slowly. Over half the performances were presented in a morning-television-show-give-a-play-preview style with the singer or singers merely standing in front of a microphone. What brought the show together were sudden bright moments gaining great reaction from the audience.

Bright stars of the show included Master of Ceremonies and director Terrence Mann. His quick-witted phrases and cool manner gave a fun vibe to the show and kept the audience laughing. Mann also showed off his Broadway talent with his performance of “Some Enchanted Evening.” The company men gave a bravo presentation of the South Pacific tune “There is Nothin’ like a Dame” by rushing about the stage, and drooling over the women in the audience. Soloist Patrick Detloff sang a soulful rendition of “Soliloquy” from “Carousel.” In character as a man expressing his plans for his future son or daughter, Detloff’s rich voice and sincerity brought such life to the song that his standing in front of a microphone was no longer tedious, but emotional.

However, the biggest audience response happened during intermission. The performers opened with “It’s a Grand Night for Singing,” and lead singer, Jonathan Cobrda, purposefully fell into the first row of the audience. When intermission arrived and the house lights returned, a woman in the first row was surrounded by a pool of blood. Apparently, Cobrda accidently hit the woman’s ankle (there is rumor that he reopened some stitches), and the audience member did not feel a thing. She was escorted out of the theatre on a stretcher by the EMTs, and the remaining audience applauded her bravery as she was wheeled away. The woman was announced to be doing well and was not critically injured. Cobrda continued to perform without a hitch.

For the finale, the cast sang the audience good bye with the classic “Oklahoma” from the same titled musical. It was a wonderful way to end the show as the stage was filled with every performer and even the Master of Ceremonies, Mann. Overall, the show was ovation worthy ofmaking the rain fade away and the sunshine inside the theatre for the duration of the show.