The Fullerton community experienced a night of music, comedy and performing arts at Saturday night’s Concert Under the Stars. After a four-year hiatus, the event brought back a CSUF annual tradition that showcases faculty, staff, students and alumni talents.
The performers were accompanied by a live band led by music director and theatre and dance professor, Mitch Hanlon.
The event, which CSUF President Mildred García called “The Hollywood Bowl of Fullerton,” was an elaborate production, complete with a fully-lit set dressed up with stars to complement the event’s name.
The night drew in crowds with a carnival-like atmosphere. Before the start of the show, attendees were able to visit the various food trucks and exhibit booths, including a photo booth and tents sponsored by companies such as Toyota and Wells Fargo Bank.
The concert titled “I Believe in Music” began at 8 p.m. with Miss Fullerton 2013 and CSUF theatre major, Salisha Thomas, singing the national anthem to open the show.
Boasting a colorful variety of acts, the show’s program featured performers with television, national touring and Broadway credits.
Among the list of performers, alumna Kirsten Vangsness delivered a crowd pleasing comedy act. Vangsness, who graduated from CSUF in 1996 with a degree in theatre arts, now plays technical analyst Penelope Garcia on the CBS show Criminal Minds.
In her diary entry-style monologue, Vangsness mocked her own degree while playing an insecure actress who had just delivered what she believed was the worst audition of her life.
“I got a degree in playing pretend,” Vangsness said during her performance.
Also taking to the stage was the university’s performing group The Preeminents, made up of CSUF theatre and dance seniors, who performed multiple times throughout the program.
The group sang and danced perfectly choreographed renditions of classic popular songs such as John Lennon’s “Imagine” and Barry Manilow’s “Bandstand Boogie.”
“This show was actually choreographed specifically for our class for this event and other events to raise money and fundraise for the school,” said Devon Hadsell, 22, a member of The Preeminents and musical theatre major.
Stephanie Inglese, 21, a member of The Preeminents and a musical theatre major, said the most memorable moments of the show was when everyone stood up at the end, cheering them on.
“I’ve never performed for this amount of people,” Inglese said. “It just kind of sunk in at that moment and my eyes kind of started to water with excitement.”
García also appeared on stage at the beginning of the show to welcome the attendees, giving recognition to sponsors, students and Fullerton residents for their support.
She described the concert as “spectacular,” “amazing” and “fabulous.”
“We had a wonderful evening seeing the talent of our faculty and staff and our students,” García said.
These talents included CSUF alumnus Louis Pardo, who entertained the audience with a hand puppet-accompanied rendition of “Purpose” from the Broadway musical Avenue Q. Pardo performed a second time with a comical Spanish number called Three Caballeros.
Also, taking the stage at their alma mater for the event were Brooke Aston, Jennifer Hubilla, Emily Mitchell, Erin McNally, Kate Peters and Brad Stanley.
Along with Hanlon, College of the Arts professor Eve Himmelheber represented CSUF’s faculty on stage.
The grand finale closed with a performance of “Proud to Be an American” and “America, the Beautiful” by the show’s entire cast, who received a standing ovation, followed by a fireworks display.
“I think next year it will be even bigger,” García said. “We had about 3,000 (people) tonight. I think next year we’re going to double it. I think the news will be out.”
Contributions and funds raised by the event will go towards student scholarships and academic enrichment.