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Anne Steele Wins First Prize At MetroStar Talent Challenge

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Last night, in the exciting finale of the first annual "MetroStar Talent Challenge" at The Metropolitan Room, Anne Steele was picked as the event's first grand prize winner.  Steele, who beat out her co-finalists Stearns Matthews and Nesha Ward, proved to be the most consistent of the finalists, earning high marks week after week.  While Matthews, a crowd favorite, had a breakout week in Week 6, he lost ground this week with a song selection the judges found cautious.  Ward, for her part, made up ground this week after an uneven showing last week.

With all three performers joining the show's host Lennie Watts on the stage, Steele let her megawatt smile do all the talking when it was announced that she was the one selected by the judges and the audience to headline at The Metropolitan Room this winter.

From an initial pool of more than 100 solo singers and vocal duos, 61 contestants took to the stage in the seven-week, jury and audience-voted elimination-round competition that began on July 7.  Steele. Matthews and Ward (who went head to head in two rounds of finals -- on August 11 and again last night) will share an impressive, career-boosting package of prizes and professional encouragements.  For Steele these will include a fully produced, week-long, prime-time booking at The Metropolitan Room and a professionally produced, multi-track recording of this upcoming show.  Matthews and Ward will open for Steele and receive demo recordings of their appearance.  As part of the package, worth over $15,000, The Metropolitan Room will engage several well-known professionals and artists to collaborate with the winners.

Of the finalists, only Anne Steele, a two-time MAC nominee and a Back Stage Bistro award-winner, is a familiar face here:  The Don't Tell Mama and Brandy's fixture just returned from her 7th Rosie O'Donnell cruise.  Matthews, who is 24, made his professional stage debut in "MetroStar."  The Kinnelon New Jersey native recently graduated from the Westminster Choir College in Princeton. Nesha Ward, who is from Tampa Florida, also made her New York stage debut in "MetroStar."

In addition to the contest's four permanent jury members -- Christopher an Steven Mazzilli (owners of Gotham Comedy Club & The Metropolitan Room), the singer Baby Jane Dexter and the former Back Stage and Citysearch critic Roy Sander -- a unique cross-section of performers, journalists and industry figures donned judge's robes during the contest.  Among the performers were the actors Karen Mason, Kristine Zbornik, and Leon hall.  On the media side were the former NY Times rock critic Henry Edwards, NY 1 News's arts reporter Stephanie Simon, the cabaret and theater critics Rob Lester and Barbara Siegel, and the producer, critic and writer Scott Siegel (Town Hall's "Broadway by the Year" and The Nightlife Awards).

Last night's guest judges were Jean-Claude Baker, the charismatic owner of the Theatre District bistro Chez Josephine, and Time Out NY's theatre and cabaret critic, Adam Feldman.  While the ballots were being counted, the evening's music director Tracy Stark played for Baby Jane Dexter who favored the sell-out crowd with a special bonus set.

Rated "Best of New York" by New York Magazine, the Nightlife and Bistro Award-winning Metropolitan Room, 34 West 22nd Street, celebrated its second anniversary in May. www.metropolitanroom.com.

Photo Credit Maryann Lopinto


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