Stars Align at 2023 UCF Celebrates the Arts: First-ever Alumni Showcase Debuts

So much talent! Join us for the first-ever UCF Alumni Showcase at the 2023 UCF Celebrates the Arts on Friday, April 14 at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts in Orlando.

On Friday, April 14, the thick crescent moon will near Saturn before sunrise, and Venus, Mercury and Mars will be in the western sky after sundown.

But the stars will shine brightest at 7:30 p.m. that night at Steinmetz Hall in the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts. That’s when 18 UCF alumni from the College of Arts and Humanities School of Performing Arts take the stage and share their musical journeys at Reach for the Stars: UCF Alumni Showcase.

Hosted by actor Cheryl Hines ’90, the event will mark the first-ever alumni showcase in the eight-year history of UCF’s Celebrates the Arts. And not only will the event highlight our talented alumni, but it will also serve as a bravo for one of CAH’s most influential educators. (below, Cheryl Hines)

“When we found out that Associate Professor Earl Weaver was retiring this year, we knew that we would have to celebrate his incredible legacy onstage,” says Michael Wainstein, director of the School of Performing Arts. “What better way to do that than by highlighting former students from his 20-year career at UCF!” 

Weaver spent much of his early years in theatre in California as a director/choreographer before landing at UCF in 2003. In addition to his “day job” at UCF, Weaver also performed in local and regional theatre productions and was invited over the years to serve as a Master Teacher and Adjudicator at national theatre festivals.

Wainstein says the alumni showcase is not an official tribute to Weaver’s legacy – that will come later – rather, more of a nod to his dedication and leadership throughout the years.

As the scope of the production grew, Wainstein enlisted Kayla Kelsay Morales ’12 to assist in the event. Morales and her husband, Joshian Morales ’13, own Kelsay + Morales Company, a Central Florida-based theatrical casting office.

“The response to our request to alumni who wanted to participate was almost overwhelming, but definitely not unexpected,” Kayla Kelsay Morales says. “Our alumni are doing so well in the entertainment industry and are so grateful to the way UCF has prepared them for their dream careers. They were thrilled to participate in this year’s UCF Celebrates the Arts.”

It came down to availability, she says. “If they were available, they said yes. Everybody was super-excited to be back and be together – it was like a mini-reunion for the cast.”

Each alumnus will perform a song from their time at UCF, and a song from their lives since UCF. Appropriately, Morales said the theme is “Now and Then.” The ensemble will also perform two group numbers; all musical accompaniments will be under the direction of Richard Crawley, UCF assistant professor of musical theatre and Terry Thomas, our staff accompanist and occasional musical director.

Morales will sing a composition from Ragtime, a musical in which she performed during her senior year at UCF.

“There will also be a lot of songs from new musicals, as well as the classics and some fan favorites,” Morales says. “It’s just going to be a really exciting and beautiful night of musical theatre, just celebrating everybody’s careers in theatre since we’ve been at UCF.”

Although Broadway is considered the pinnacle of a performer’s career, Wainstein says, there are many, many ways for a performer to make a very good living doing their craft.

“There are hundreds of professional theaters across the country,” Wainstein says. “These theaters employ probably ten times as many people as Broadway employs.”

Wainstein says that a lot of students come to UCF’s performing arts program “just because they want to work at Disney. More than 180 of our graduates have worked at Disney in some capacity or another. We are definitely a pipeline to Disney and to Universal.”

Certainly, Wainstein adds, some of the alumni who will be featured at this year’s Alumni Showcase will have been on Broadway or are appearing presently.  

“We are very, very happy that many of our students do get to Broadway because we know that’s their dream, right? And I think this year’s performers will comprise all the different kinds of journeys that our alumni have been on. They are thrilled to be back in town to help UCF Celebrates the Arts and can’t wait to take a bow before their hometown audience.”

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