Actress Lauren Stanford Wins 2013 MetroStar Talent Challenge
The actress Lauren Stanford pulled off a dramatic win last night, as she became the 2013 MetroStar at the Metropolitan Room in New York. A Kansas City native with musical theatre credits, Stanford edged out her four co-finalists in tight scoring that belied how strong and evenly matched this year's MetroStar Talent Challenge Top 5 had become.
To win the jury and audience-voted singers' contest -- the Metropolitan Room's 6th annual -- Stanford held steady against Jason Morris (the first runner-up) and second runner-up Stephen Mitchell Brown. The two other finalists in the seven-week competition that began on July 8 were Venessa Diaz and Tony Ponella.
As the competition revved up to its exciting five-finalist finale, Stanford had become a master at showing off flashes of zany humor and insight that gave special dimension to her highly polished interpretations of a variety of songs. When the host Jay Rogers announced that she had won, the Metropolitan Room crowd erupted. Stanford, gracious and demure, glided to the stage, appreciative but also somewhat surprised. Morris and Brown, representing the three men among the finalists, stood tall, gallant to a fault. (This was the first time in MetroStar history men outnumbered the women.)
Before the results were announced the audience was treated to special performances by the reigning 2012 MetroStar Billie Roe, doing excerpts from her critically acclaimed Tom Waits show, and Eric Michael Gillett, one of the contest's four permanent judges.
The night's guest jurists included Gawker's Michael Musto, cabaret star Mark Nadler, and artistic director of the Mabel Mercer Foundation KT Sullivan. In addition to Gillett, the contest's permanent jury consisted the critic Roy Sander (the chairman), critic Rob Lester and the singer-entrepreneur Carolyn Montgomery-Forant. Tracy Stark served as the contest's resident music director.
The Top 5 were the last ones standing from an initial pool of 75 solo singers. Stanford's career-boosting package of prizes and professional encouragements (worth over $10,000) includes a fully-produced, prime-time major engagement at the club, plus a professional multi-track, unmastered live recording of the new show. Brown and Morris will open for Stanford on alternating nights during her upcoming run, and receive demo recordings of their appearances.
Open to performers of all ages and backgrounds who have not played a major engagement at The Metropolitan Room, "MetroStar" encourages singers to present well-rounded stage performances in which creativity, innovation and authenticity are prized over vocal fireworks.
For all the latest "MetroStar Talent Challenge" information, consult the club's Web site at www.metropolitanroom.com For reservations call 212/206-0440.