One of Oklahoma Baptist University’s own vocal performance majors, junior Julie Welch, from Bartlesville, Oklahoma, recently performed in Lyric Theatre’s “When You Wish.” The OKC Civic Center hosted performances July 11-15.
“When You Wish: A Celebration of the Disney Songbook” is a musical revolving around a little girl who dreams herself into a 1940's Hollywood sound stage. The whole ensemble is decked out in a classic 40’s look and one by one a handful of crowd favorite Disney characters such as Snow White, Hercules, Tarzan, Pocahontas, Rapunzel and Mary Poppins come to life right before the audience’s eyes.
Disney granted Lyric the rights to produce the musical for the first time in a traditional indoor space after Utah’s Tuacahn Amphitheatre staged it as an outdoor show in summer 2015. The venerable Oklahoma City theater spent more than a year developing the show.
Welch stumbled upon this opportunity while researching Oklahoma summer stock theatre companies, in order to boost her performance resume. In addition to “When You Wish,” Welch performed in two productions at OBU, including “The Music Man” and “A Porcelain Doll.”
In her first performance with Lyric Theatre and her first professionally paid gig, much like the main character in the musical, Welch was able to live out a dream.
“Being Mulan was most definitely a dream come true,” she said. “When I was in seventh grade, I won my middle school's talent show singing ‘Reflection,’ so getting to perform the song on a big stage in the most beautiful Mulan kimono designed by Jeffery Meek was absolutely magical.”
For Welch, the hardest part of playing Mulan was the transition from singing and fighting during the song “Man Out of You” into singing the power ballad “Reflection.” Not only did Welch have to change on stage during the transition, but she also had to remind herself to breathe and catch her breath so that ‘Reflection’ would be the strong and powerful ballad the audience expected.
Throughout the process of rehearsals, practices and performances, Welch grew as a performer in the way she views her role on the stage.
“I got to work with so many phenomenally talented people who challenged and encouraged me to find the story in the song and share it. So often I am so focused on the technique, I forget the story. This experience reminded me that as a performer, I am a story teller.”
Welch loved seeing all the young children’s and adults’ faces light up and excitement surge throughout the room when the audience’s favorite Disney characters and songs came to life right before their eyes.
“I remember on opening night as I was singing the lyrics to ‘Reflection,’ a small child near the front row was singing along and my heart was so happy.”
Welch is grateful to her voice teacher at OBU, assistant professor of voice Rebecca Ballinger, for pushing her and challenging her to grow as a vocalist and performer.
“Professor Ballinger has been a major help in developing my voice and helping me be true to the voice quality that God has given me,” she said. “She has encouraged and challenged me not only musically, but also in my walk with Christ as she has walked along aside me in my journey as a music major.”
She also credits a music course taught by Dr. Peter Purin, associate professor of music theory at OBU, for preparing her for this performance.
“I get to give a big special thanks to Dr. Purin's aural skills class for teaching me,” she said. “First of all, he has helped me in my abilities to sight sing fast. We had two days of music rehearsals and I was singing something other than the melody and that class definitely prepared me for that. Second of all, he taught me how to break down rhythms. Several songs in the show had different rhythms than what I was used to and I found myself using a rhythm technique Dr. Purin had challenged his students to learn and master. The music professors of OBU have trained me so well in performance and given me so many opportunities to feel comfortable with performing, and I am so grateful.”
Welch is also grateful for the impact OBU has made on her life beyond the state, as she learns to live out her calling.
“OBU has truly taught me to ‘live worthy of the high calling of God in Christ,’” she said. “If there's one thing I have learned at OBU it is to live out the gifts that God has given me the best that I can. I worship God by enhancing and using the talents He's graciously given to me. The impact that OBU has made on my life is far deeper than what I could ever explain. Through the stresses of all my music classes and the challenges of continual performance opportunities, my relationship with God has deepened and my trust is more firmly planted in Christ. I am so grateful to my peers and professors at OBU for being there for me and encouraging me to depend on Christ.”
After graduation, Welch hopes to attend graduate school on the east coast and continue her education in performance. Eventually, she also hopes to hold the position of professor at a university, teaching and mentoring students who are pursuing a career in voice and/or musical theatre performance. In summer months, Welch would like to continue participating in summer stock theatre companies.
For more information on the Warren M. Angell College of Fine Arts at OBU, visit www.okbu.edu/fine-arts.