The chorus members sported shirts reading “The Champion City Springfield, Ohio” in blue or yellow, and huddled under tents prior the performance. Others waited around the fountain area to watch the production, support family and friends performing and hope for the chance to also join in.
Springfield Mayor Warren Copeland’s wife, Clara, was in the chorus, and he’d gotten a taste of what to expect previously.
Copeland’s daughter, Karen Willhite, sang during filming in Columbus in May. He enjoyed it and was even more excited to see a video appearance by Springfield’s John Legend there, encouraging the group to take the show down the road to his hometown.
“I hope it’s a chance to show who we are to a lot of people across the country,” Copeland said.
Chorus participants were also glad to represent the city. Kathleen Day, who frequently directs shows for Springfield Civic Theater, wanted to sing and represent.
“I’m very supportive of Springfield. I hope this gives a better understanding of ourselves and boosts our self-esteem,” Day said.
The sun was going over the Heritage Center’s clocktower toward twilight as the chorus gathered and warmed up to tunes like “Funkytown” and “I Wanna Dance with Somebody” before launching into “I Lived,” followed with a break.
As the crew set up for further filming, the chorus entertained with dance-offs, and the eight featured performers joined in, keeping the crowds involved, including several COHatch patrons who observed while eating and drinking.
The featured performers were Annette Turner, Natalie Berry, Melissa Tuttle, Liliana Dobyns, Josh Weston, Tonya Arnold, Danielle Finch and Mike Compton.
A few people grew restless, discovering that the frequent breaks from filming take a bit away from the glamorous side of show business.
Following their first takes, Sue Bates and Linda Butler reflected on the experience, glad to have one out of the way and ready for more. Both perform with the Springfield Symphony Chorale and found it a different sort of energy.
“It was wonderful because it allows you to express yourself more freely in the context of the music and words,” Bates said.
Chelsea Jenkins of Springfield loves to sing, has done a few local productions and this experience has encouraged her to perform more.
As night fell, Brown, perched on the downtown fountain where he conducted from, pumping up the crowd who would be backing the performers and chorus.
“We have had such an amazing time, met so many community members and amazing people since we’ve been here,” he said.
Brown also had to remind the performers and crowd that since this was filming for television, they had to keep doing it again for a variety of camera coverage and angles and portions of the song.
With each take, the energy seemed to rise and the performers expressed themselves. Twins Grace and Molly Whetstone danced while singing as part of the chorus, attracting the camera crew.
The night ended with Brown leading a chant of “Springfield, Springfield …”
As the crew tore down and packed the equipment, some spoke highly of their experience in Springfield. One mentioned the friendliness of the people and willingness of businesses to work with them, adding, “I’ve made some real friends here.”