As he sat on the lone chair on Plachta Auditorium’s stage, Jeff Daniels heated up the room with guitar in hand and his Emmy Award sitting beside him.
Daniels returned to Mount Pleasant and Central Michigan University’s campus, a place he considers home, to share his stories and his music with the community as a part of the Max & Emily’s Concert Series.
“You can cancel classes, but you can’t cancel me,” he said to begin the evening Tuesday.
For nearly two hours, Daniels had the audience captivated with stories of his wife, his family and the adventures he’s had in acting. He sang songs about his days at CMU and in New York City.
Daniels even shared a story about one of his first big call-backs. He and four other men were sitting in a waiting room, chatting about where they had gone to school. Daniels said it was the first time he realized his education hadn’t been for nothing.
“No matter where you went to school, you can take that stuff you learned there and kick someone else’s ass down the road,” he said. “That audition was ‘Terms of Endearment.’”
At one point during the show, Daniels brought out his recently-awarded Emmy. As he set it down on the stage, he blew it a kiss.
He then talked about the award show, saying he didn’t think he was going to win.
“Someone behind me said, ‘Wait, who just won?’” Daniels said. “True story. She was upset. The backstage press said I was an upset. I said, ‘Funny. I’m not upset at all.’”
Colorado senior Grace Van Poppel said she enjoyed the audience participation the most.
“I like when they threw everyone in on the Big Bay Shuffle,” she said. “It really got the (audience’s) attention and definitely lightened the mood.”
Daniels kept the audience engaged, getting everyone to sing, “How ’bout we take our pants off?” He also brought President George Ross on stage for a guest spotlight during a song.
“You’re not going to see any other president in any history of any university do what you’re about to do,” Daniels told Ross.
He then handed a train whistle to Ross, telling him to blow when he pointed at the microphone. Ross laughed and participated, blowing a heartfelt train whistle solo and becoming one of the highlights of the evening.
Gisela and Tony Moffit of Mount Pleasant said they enjoyed seeing the interaction between a hometown hero and the president of the university.
“To get President Ross on stage was a stroke of genius,” Gisela said. “Not many people would play along.”
Tony Moffit was glad he attended the show despite the frigid weather.
The night was an overall success for the first winter concert of the Max & Emily’s concert series, said Chris “Elmo” Walton, the general manager at Max & Emily’s Eatery. The event was still well attended, with canceled classes and cold weather weighing against it.
“There were only 75 open seats,” Elmo said. “We had a showtime temperature that felt like negative a lot, but it was a very successful night.”
Max & Emily’s continued the tradition of collecting donations for the Red Cross Infant Pantry with the help of Isabella Bank, downtown Mount Pleasant and CMU, who all sponsored the event. Elmo said that like attendance, it was a successful night for donations as well. The donations included diapers, wipes, formula and money, if available.
The summer line-up for the Max & Emily’s concert series will be announced around mid-February, according to Elmo. He also said Daniels will be coming back, but when that is remains up in the air.
“He would love to come back,” Elmo said. “There’s something different about this community. Great things happen at CMU.”