More than 800 people filled the newly renovated Austad Auditorium for the “Give My Regards” benefit concert on March 26 to show support for Jim Christian.
The concert was held in celebration of WSU Theatre Department Director Jim Christian’s 27-year career as it comes to an end this semester. Proceeds from the concert are going to the Jim and Jerrilyn Grills Christian Scholarship for Excellence in Musical Theatre.
“Give My Regards” featured students and songs from productions dating back to 1994, including several of Christian’s original works.
Christian has written and produced several musicals, including “Sleepy Hollow,” “Pirated!,” “The Plain Princess,” “JingleJacks” and “Five Carols for Christmas,” that have all premiered on WSU stages; some have gone on to be performed across the nation.
“It is really fun to watch him create,” WSU theatre education major Ty Cox said. “The second he gets an idea in his head it’s like this extravagant thing that you get to watch come to life.”
Christian partnered with Tom Edward Clark to write “Sleepy Hollow” and “The Plain Princess” and with Kenneth Plain to write “Five Carols for Christmas” and “JingleJacks.”
“Sleepy Hollow” has been awarded with the Michael Kanin Musical Theatre Award at the Kennedy center in Washington D.C.
Christian has made an impact in the theatre community not only on a national level, but with each student that has passed through his program.
“His impact has been extraordinarily huge,” WSU theatre student Cory Thompson said. “A lot of the students wouldn’t be going on to their long careers that they have ahead of them if it wasn’t for Jim Christian.”
WSU students from throughout Christian’s career attended the event to show their support for the man who had such an impact on their lives.
“He is such a light, and any chance you have to learn from him is an amazing opportunity,” Mackinzie Flinders, a theatre education major and current student of Christian, said. “He has so much knowledge and experience. He is a really great guy to be around.”
Before the final song of the evening, a visibly emotional Christian gave a touching farewell speech thanking his students, friends and family, and reflecting on his career at WSU.
The audience responded with a standing ovation that lasted nearly three minutes.
“Everybody here loves Jim. Everybody loves working with him, everybody loves being in one of his shows,” Thompson said. “So it’s no surprise that he gets this outpouring of support from everybody.”
The concert ended with Christian and the entire cast singing “Sunday” from the 1984 Steven Sondheim musical “Sunday in the Park with George,” which was performed at WSU in 1998.
Immediately after the song was finished, the entire audience was on their feet applauding not only the performance, but the man who has dedicated 27 years of his life to both Weber State and to his students: Jim Christian.