‘Belcher and Friends’ show off this year’s season

Chancellor David O. Belcher, his wife Susan Belcher and many other noteworthy Western Carolina University performers put together a collection of stunning performances on Tuesday, Sept. 3, to benefit the WCU Friends of the Arts.

Other performers included Tony nominee Terrence Mann, Terry Welch, Delanté Randolph, William Martin, the WCU Faculty/Student Orchestra and a group of students from the WCU Musical Theatre program.

The Friends of the Arts event was free to the public, but if you donated at least $50 to become a Supporter level Friend of the Arts, you were guaranteed two seats. Between donations and students calling in for tickets, this concert was sold out.

The donation levels for Friends of the Arts range in price from $50 (Supporter) to more than $3,500 (Benefactor). Supporter level Friends get not only two tickets to the Belcher and Friends concert; they also received a copy of the 2013-14 Fine Arts Calendar and recognition on the supporter list. In the future, they will also receive e-invites to observe students in master’s classes, chances to attend dress rehearsals of WCU performances and get timely reminder notices about all WCU art events.

The first two songs on the program, “Opener” from “Stop! Look! Listen!” and “Where the Music Comes From,” were performed by Susan and David Belcher. Martin, who sang with Susan Belcher during their respective graduate programs at Northwestern, then joined them to sing “Make Believe” from “Showboat.”

The next piece was a hilarious performance by Welch, complete with wonderful facial expressions and body language. “The Alto’s Lament” is one known to almost anyone with knowledge of show business, as many of the parts written for the altos in the choir, and their show pieces are boring in comparison to that of the sopranos and the tenors.

Next, Welch joined Susan Belcher, who had changed dresses into one that Welch lovingly teased her for looking “like a disco ball.” Together, they sang “Bosom Buddies” from the musical “Mame,” which was also absolutely hilarious. The entire crowd was roaring with laughter at the barbs that the two threw at each other, saying, “Only a bosom buddy could tell you the truth.”

Susan Belcher and Welch were then replaced by members of the WCU Musical Theatre program in an impressive performance of the title song from “42nd Street.”

The illustrious Mann then took the stage with “Takin’ it to the Streets.” Saxophonist Delanté Randolph and backup vocalists Will Bryant, Alex Hairston, Jeffrey Mack and Anastasia Teel joined him for this performance, and the backup vocalists joined him again for his performance of John Lennon and Paul McCartney’s “In My Life.”

The students of the Musical Theatre program then took the stage again to perform a medley from their upcoming show, “Next to Normal.” This show featured Tierney Leigh Cody as Diana, Joshua Farrar as Gabe, Paul Thiemann as Dan, Claire Van der Linden as Natalie, James Hendley as Henry and Brian J. Gay as Doctor Madden.

It was followed by another medley from another upcoming show, “Les Misérables.” It was a medley of “At the End of the Day” and “Master of the House,” and featured Hendley, Van der Linden, Mann and Welch as soloists.

The featured performance of the concert was David Belcher’s and the orchestra’s performance of George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue,” which lasted 10 minutes and received a standing ovation by the entire audience.

The rousing finale of the night was a performance of “One Day More” from “Les Miserables” that included all of the performers from the concert, including the WCU Faculty/Student Wind Orchestra.

Based on the performances that I saw, I expect an absolutely fantastic season from the School of Stage and Screen, and I cannot wait to see the shows that were previewed at this concert.

“Next to Normal” will be performed in Hoey Auditorium from September 25-28 at 7:30 p.m. Other shows that are coming this season are “Zombies on Campus! A SlaughterPocalypse!” in November, “A Doll’s House” in February, “Les Misérables” in April and the Controlled Chaos Film Festival in May.