Wallace State presents ‘Stars Fell on Alabama’ this week

Group preparing for European tour

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Photos courtesy Wallace State Fine and Performing Arts

HANCEVILLE, Ala. – This Thursday through Saturday, Wallace State Fine and Performing Arts will present “Stars Fell on Alabama,” a joint production of the Wallace State Singers and Jazz Band.  The program of vocal and instrumental music, along with dance, is presented in conjunction with the Alabama 200 Bicentennial celebration.

Wallace State Music Instructor and Choir Director Tiffany Richter shared, “Basically, when we put it together that it was the 200th anniversary for Alabama, we wanted to do something to commemorate that.  So what we came up with is an overview of music that comes from the heart of the state. We are going to do music from artists who were born in Alabama, from Alabama.

“We’re also doing a section of ‘Made in Alabama’ music, which will be the Muscle Shoals stuff.  We not only will be doing artists like Lionel Richie and The Commodores, The Temptations, Hank Williams, obviously the group Alabama, William Dawson, Nat King Cole.  But then we’ll also do songs that were recorded in Muscle Shoals like Rolling Stones and Aretha Franklin, and stuff like that.

“We decided to incorporate all of the arts, so it’s all of our instrumental program, our vocal program, our theater program.  It will also include song and dance, and be a big variety show, plus original monologues that our students came up with to talk about why Alabama’s so important to us, and why it’s so important to the arts.  And ‘What is that thing about Alabama that makes it so special to create art here?’ is basically the line of the show.”

So, what is it about Alabama that makes it a special place for the arts?

Richter continued, “I think it’s something intangible.  We talk about it through the show. You know, there’s something to the heat, the family dynamic, the churches, the juke joints.  There’s something in the mud! There’s just something here that is conducive to creativity and soul-stirring music and art.

“We talk about that in the show.  I don’t know if we define it; I think that we give examples of it, but I don’t know what is the intangible thing about this state that causes so much wonderful art to come out of it.”

The show

Wallace State Technical Director Noah Carpenter explained that the show is going to incorporate new tech and fun features, including a huge array of fixed and moving lights, and a state-of-the-art projection system putting images on a multi-surface backdrop instead of a single flat screen, akin to the projection systems used in live park productions at Disney World.

Carpenter shared, “We’re adding so much that we’ve never had before.  We’ve always tried to add a couple of different lighting effects, and especially for the Singers show, because it’s a ‘funner’ kind of high-energy show.

“So we’ve added a couple of LEDs in the past, or last year they did some LED effects on the stage, but I don’t think we’ve ever added this many fixtures onstage in addition to what we’ve already got.  I think we’ve got 45 to 50 added fixtures in the theater and moving up the theater.

“Samuel Hewitt is our student lighting designer who’s working on the show with me.  Him and T.R. (Richter) and me, we’ve kind of worked on an immersive experience from the time you walk in to the time you walk out, so there won’t be that kind of dead time pre-show.  As soon as you walk in the front doors of the theater, the experience starts right then with some of the movers and some of the LEDs that we’re bringing in, and then the environmental projection that we’re using onstage.  We’ll be able to do all kinds of really fun, really cool things with that that we’ve never been able to do before, too.

“The lights: the number is new, but with the environmental projection, that’s something that I don’t know a show in the Cullman County area has used yet, so that’s something that will be brand new to everybody.”

Richter said, “It’s going to feel like you’re going to a concert/party/play; I mean, we’re going to have a little bit of everything in it, so I think everyone will have a good time.

“The thing I think also that makes this pretty unique is that, most of the time when choirs or bands do concerts, we do other people’s music.  And we are doing that, but usually use other people’s arrangements of music. But for a lot of this stuff, because we were arranging it for band or for choir, we just had to arrange ourselves.  The kids came up with original monologues.

“So most of what you see in this show is going to be Wallace State-made, and that’s why we’re really proud of it, because instrumentally, vocally, the monologues, we had a hand in everything.  And so, that makes it very original and unique to what we do.

Taking the show on the road…to Europe!

This summer, “Stars Fell on Alabama” will tour Germany and France, as Richter explained:

“It’s me and 70 of my closest friends going to put on a show in Europe!  And we’re starting in our sister city of Frankweiler, of course.

“Once again, it’s kind of a unique trip, because the company that we’re working with, they’re not used to a band and vocal thing happening together in a variety show kind of format.  So we’re really excited to take this to Europe because, number one, Europeans love to hear American music. They don’t love it as much when we come and try to do European music. They want us to do the music that was made and grown here.  So we’re excited about that.

“We’re also excited about taking this group of students because, I think out of 60 or 70 of them, two of them have been to Europe.  This is a really big deal for them. We’re going from Germany all the way across France, Strasbourg and Paris, but then we’re going to end up in Normandy and do a memorial recital there.  And it ends up being the 75th anniversary of D-Day, so there are a lot of really interesting things that we get to celebrate.”

The final word

Richter shared, “We’re not going to play all of the songs that you like, but you will like every song that we come up with.  (The audience is) not going to hear every one of their favorite songs, but they’re going to walk out with a new favorite song!”

At a glance

“Stars Fell on Alabama” at Wallace State Community College

Presented by Wallace State Fine and Performing Arts

Betty Leeth Haynes Theater on the Wallace State campus

Thursday, May 2 through Saturday, May 4, at 7 p.m. each night

Suggested donation of $10, $5 for students

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W.C. Mann

craig@cullmantribune.com