By Theresa Smith
GCU News Bureau
Between the peals of laughter and sustained roars of approval, some people among the record crowd of 7,000 admitted to painful eardrums and stomach aches. That’s how incredibly overwhelming the performance of The McFly’s was in the 11th annual Lip Sync Battle on Thursday night at Grand Canyon University Arena. Their mix of humorous video, slick hip hop and classic pop songs was the first of seven exceptional performances.
Dance moves to Earth, Wind and Fire’s “September," Abba’s “Dancing Queen," Kenny Loggins’ “Footloose," and Toto’s “Africa" brought the crowd to a fevered pitch, increasing even louder with the theme songs from Fresh Prince, Friends and Titanic accompanied by photos on the massive video screen.
The yodeling Walmart boy was comical, but arguably the McFly’s funniest moment was the dance scene featuring GCU President Brian Mueller and a team of fellow executives. Their pre-event creativity paid off via the video, along with the lengthy practices that produced synchronized dance moves, including stunting and flipping over each other and in sync.
Audience members voting via texts awarded the championship to the McFly’s, who were channeling the "Back to the Future" film.
“It feels so good,’’ McFly’s leader Jard Cassell said. “All the hard work paid off. It is all glory to God with a great group of guys.’’
The 17 members of McFly’s, including 15 sophomores, became friends as Willow Hall residents last year. Inspired by the 2017 Lip Sync won by 49 Shades of Purple, they began planning six months ago, chose the songs the first week of September, put the team together a week later and then worked on the timing of the songs and the dancing. They practiced for more than a month with the help of choreographers.
“We are a bunch of random guys who like to goof around and have fun,’’ Cassell said. “We wanted to try something different with the theme, and going back on time was how we thought we would do it.’’
Along with Cassell, the team included Andrew Carson, Sergio Mukokomani, Connor Brinto, Conner Trout, Jesse Traut, Austin Rockwell, Mason Landis, Eli Loibl, Daniel Stonewall, Ozzie Larsen, Pete Lanting, Peter Hegland, Sam Waters and Dylan Ward.
The crowd, four of whom camped out Wednesday night to enter the arena first, voted Rent-A-Dad second and the GCU Hip Hop team third. Mueller’s Little Monsters, 90-Degree Angles and The Prince Charmings wowed the crowd as well along with the GCU Dance team.
In typical Lopes fashion, students put on the event for students – with help from five staff members and the exceptionally entertaining emcee, Caleb Duarte. For the past three months, 35 Canyon Activities Board (CAB) student leaders, including special events director Kenzie Hayes and assistant director Ryan Nguyen, organized the show.
“This is especially meaningful my senior year to get this community together for something so fun and invigorating,’’ CAB student leader Austin Kent said. “So much work went into it, and then to see it go off perfectly, you can’t do anything but sit back and smile. It is awe-inspiring -- the technology, the talent and the passion.’’
The excitement began to build two hours before showtime as the line of audience members stretched from GCU Arena to the corner of Prescott Hall all the way down Lopes Way, past the Papago Apartments. The Arena was nearly full 25 minutes after the doors opened at 7 p.m., and a pre-show video set the bar for hilarity. It featured Pastor and Dean of Students Dr. Tim Griffin shadow boxing and jogging with a face filled with shaving cream, Mueller figuratively embracing the entire campus from the top deck of the Student Life Building and being pushed in a chair through the hallway, various staff members from key campus entities, including Spiritual Life, Residence Life, Student Engagement, Welcome Programs and Health Services joined in self-deprecating antics.
Once the tuxedo-wearing Duarte took the stage and promised “the best two hours of this school year,” each act joyfully made its way through the floor crowd to the stage. Then Griffin sneaked onto the stage and surprised Duarte with a shaving cream pie in the face, only to be pied along with Duarte moments later by Thunder.
The 90-Degree Angles, named for propping the residence hall doors 90 degrees open while hosting opposite-gender guests, consisted of five men and six women. They faked a battle of the sexes and alternated between dancing together and dancing apart, and at one point the men removed their baggy sweat pants to reveal form-fitting shorts. They also took off their shirts and wowed the crowd with gymnastic moves.
Amid a break between acts, Duarte implored the crowd to choose three audience members to show their dance moves while lip syncing. Sydney Kincaid, Steve Irving and Rylie Wiening each took a turn to a popular hit, with Wiening particularly skilled to the beat of a Bruno Mars song. Thunder joined the trio, and despite the costume the mascot busted several amazingly athletic moves.
The seven men performing as Rent-A-Dad adeptly used video, too, along with showing off the skills of the AV team with their mix of lighting and sound. They wore glow-in the-dark masks and black clothing and danced in front of white specks of light on a black video screen. Next, they removed the masks, turned up the lights and mixed the musical genre, including country music and a quick beat. Pushups and stunt throws spiced up the entertaining act, along with a smiling Mueller and a bemused Thunder in the video backdrop. It reached a crescendo as the Dirty Dancing soundtrack blared and six of the men picked up one dance mate in swan dive mode and rotated him on stage.
Mueller’s Little Monsters featured 15 women and two men, all of whom are in the GCU dance program. Led by Isaiah Johnson, they moved as one in tight, sleek professional fashion. A Lady Gaga song was among their accompaniments. As Johnson told the crowd afterward, “No matter how much everybody says they don’t love Lady Gaga, they do.’’
Another unique, creative group, the Prince Charmings, told a wedding story with their background video and their dance and music-playing performance, beginning with toasts and ending with an appearance from the bride. The men were smartly dressed in crisp white shirts, black bow ties and black slacks, and the women wore beautiful red dresses, except the bride – she wore white.
In an onstage interview afterward with Duarte, group leader Jadon Wilson revealed his parents’ love story – his future mom, who lived in Hawaii, saw his future dad on the cover of Alaska magazine and wrote to him, starting a lifelong romance.
The last competitive act was the 36-person strong GCU Hip Hop Club, which originated two years ago and has grown in quantity and quality, as evidenced onstage. They showed their sense of humor with cartoon songs and video, John Mayer’s “Waiting on the World to Change’’ song accompanied by a video of GCU students waiting in lines and a Sponge Bob number that prompted the crowd to chant, “Sponge Bob, Square Pants.’’
The last dance was performed by the GCU Dance team, known this night as the GCU Glammas – a collection of older women dating to 1949, the inaugural year of the school. Most wore eyeglasses, gray or purple wigs, and a combination of pajamas and house dresses. A couple even danced while holding walkers.
As freshman Heidi Lint predicted, it was another example of GCU’s incredible school spirit.
Student Activities Coordinator Scott Kolmer summed it up: “It was really cool for CAB student leaders and the performers to put so much effort into the show, and to see it pay off brings great joy.’’
● For a slideshow of Lip Sync, click here.
Contact Theresa Smith at (602) 639-7457 or [email protected].