In a hotly contested semi-final round of the "MetroStar Talent Challenge" at The Metropolitan Room last night, five finalists, were picked to move forward in the 8-week singers' competition. The five finalists, who will go head to head next Monday, August 22, in the first of two rounds of finals, are Stacey Todd Holt, Fran Leonardis, Marissa Mulder, Maria Ottavia and Stacie Perlman.

Tom Gamblin, in his role as host and ringmaster, kept the proceedings running good-naturedly as the audience consistently broke out into spirited ovations. Carefully minding the score were the permanent jurists Roy Sander (the jury chairman), Rob Lester and Sherry Eaker, who have been on hand every week since the competition got underway on July 11 with 60 contestants. Last night's visiting judges were Broadway's Jason Danieley, the singer Pamela Luss and WOR radio host Valerie Smaldone. Next week's visiting celebrity jurists will be NY 1's Stephanie Simon, WBAI's David Kenney, jazz writer Will Friedwald and the Mabel Mercer Foundation's Donald Smith. The Metropolitan Room's booking manager Tanya Holt and head host Joseph Macchia also serve on the jury. MetroStar combines audience voting with jury votes during the contest, of which this is the fourth annual edition.

A career-boosting prize package worth over $10,000 will be awarded to the competition's grand prize-winner and two runner-ups on Monday August 29. As part of their prize the MetroStar winner will headline a week-long, prime-time engagement at the club, and receive a multi-track "Live at The Metropolitan Room" recording of the new show. The runner-ups will open for the winner and receive demo recordings of their appearances. Past winners have included Anne Steele, Liz Lark Brown, and T. Oliver Reid.

Open to singers of all ages, styles and backgrounds who have not played a major engagement at The Metropolitan Room, "MetroStar" encourages performers to present well-rounded stage performances in which creativity, innovation and authenticity are prized over vocal pyrotechnics.

For all the latest "MetroStar Talent Challenge" information, consult the club's Web site at The contest's two final rounds are Mondays August 22 and 29 , both at 7pm. The cover charge for all shows is $20, with a two-drink minimum. The Nightlife and Bistro Award-winning Metropolitan Room, 34 West 22nd Street, celebrated its fifth anniversary in May. For reservations call 212/206-0440.

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