Reality musical to honor 1959 S-C grad
Ted Walch says he has “the greatest job in world.”
His performance in that role earned him special praise from his former students, and their tribute to him will be broadcast Friday night.
Walch, 70, teaches film study and theater at Harvard-Westlake School in Los Angeles.
“It’s an extremely challenging private school,” said Walch, a Sedalia native and member of Smith-Cotton High School’s Class of 1959. “It’s very competitive, and the students are all terrific.”
One of those students, Nick Lieberman, wanted to do something special to honor Walch, who Lieberman said had a significant positive impact on his life. Lieberman, a 2011 graduate and the son of actress Marilu Henner, turned to the producers of “Real Life: The Musical,” a reality television show on the Oprah Winfrey Network, which teams people with a choreographer, voice coach and producer to stage a musical performance for a special occasion such as a birthday, anniversary, proposal or, in Walch’s case, a heartfelt tribute.
While Walch said he wasn’t surprised that Lieberman was the student to pull off the show, he was surprised to be thrust into the spotlight.
“They had a ruse, a story they told me that I believed,” Walch said. “They said I was part of a documentary about great teachers, that there was a competition going on, that 10 teachers had been chosen from across the country. Where I teach, they said they wanted me to do it. ... (But) they knew what was going on.”
Lieberman and a collection of Walch’s former students performed a big musical presentation to the Andrew Gold song, “Thank You for Being a Friend.”
“The whole thing was kinda sweet,” Walch said. “It was fun. ... The idea I would do a reality show — they’re my thing. ... I was very touched by what the kids did and by how well they did it.”
Myrna Ragar, of Sedalia, is one of Walch’s classmates and said the class as a whole remains fairly close.
“We’ve been a close class all the way through since grade school,” she said.
Because of his location and line of work, Walch “knows so many stars ... You wouldn’t believe the stories he tells when he comes home,” Ragar said, quickly adding that they aren’t “tabloid” tales.
“He’s Missouri. He’s grounded,” she said.
In an email to classmates, Emma Curry, of Sedalia, wrote: “Bravo for Ted — as we know he has been a dedicated, creative teacher for many years. To have Ted, one of our 59ers, be the center of a TV show — this is plenty impressive. We can take some credit by saying that we helped mold him and smooth off the rough edges.”
Ragar doesn’t have the Oprah Winfrey Network, or (OWN), as part of her cable TV lineup, but said she is considering upgrading so she can see the episode. But Walch told her he plans to burn a DVD of the show and bring it the next time he visits his hometown.
“It would be neat to get together with our class and watch it,” Ragar said.
Walch has been teaching for 49 years, and this fall he will begin his 23rd year at Harvard-Westlake.
“I still love it, and I will continue to do it as long as I can,” he said.
Lieberman served as Walch’s assistant teacher and assisted him in directing plays. Walch said the show “is happily 80 percent Nick and only 20 percent me. ... He is very much at ease in front of a camera, but there is not an ounce of ego about him.”
Walch also has a good relationship with Henner, who volunteers to do hair and makeup for all school performances.
“She’s a nice egg. I like her a lot,” he said.
While the show doesn’t air until Friday night, Walch already has gained some notoriety from it.
“I was in a diner in L.A. a few weeks ago and a woman came over and very creepily said, ‘Mr. Walch, I have been watching you for two weeks,’ ” he said. “Then she got a big smile on her face and said she was the editor of (the) show. It was briefly disturbing, but funny.”
IF YOU WATCH
What: “Real Life: The Musical” featuring Smith-Cotton High School alumnus Ted Walch
When: 9 p.m. Friday
TV: OWN — Channel 204 on Charter, 189 or 885 on DISH Network and 279 on DIRECTV
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