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BWW Review: LA's NEXT GREAT STAGE STAR 2016 PRESENTED BY PRINCESS CRUISES Comes to a Resounding Conclusion

On Monday, February 8 LA's Next Great Stage Star 2016 Presented by Princess Cruises came to an exciting conclusion on the mainstage of the NoHo Arts Center. After an amazing 90-minute program in which the 20 contestants gave 150% to their uptempo songs from Broadway shows, fifteen contestants were eliminated and the top five finalists selected,during the first intermission. It was decided, like last year from the consensus of the judges, to add a sixth contestant. But when judges' votes were tabulated, there emerged a three-way tie between contestants James Padilla, Bethany Baderdeen and Edward Anderson. Each of these three presented a song and Edward Anderson was announced as the sixth finalist. Then each of the six proceeded to perform a second number after which the distinguished panel of 15 judges made the final decision, during the second intermission. Musical director par excellence James Lent accompanied at the piano throughout the three hour show.

In second place, LaRece Hawkins

After the finalists' round of singing, the winning order became: in sixth place, Eran Scoggins; fifth place, Aliya Stuart; fourth place, Hallie Mayer; third place, Edward Anderson; second place, LaRece Hawkins and LA's Next Great Stage Star 2016, winner Maggie Randolph (picture at top).

Some of the highlights of the first round were: LaRece Hawkins' rousing "Any Place I Hang My Hat Is Home" from St Louis Woman; Abbe Drake's dynamic "Back to Before" from Ragtime; Maggie Randolph's torchy "Down with Love" from Hooray for What!; Eran Scoggins' electric "Wheels of a Dream" also from Ragtime and Deane Sullivan's risque but fun turn "Man" from The Full Monty.

In third place, Edward Anderson

In the second round the six finalists competed with: "Let It Sing" from Violet performed by Eran Scoggins; "# Five with a Bullet" by Hallie Mayer; LaRece Hawkins offered a chilling "I Am Changing" from Dreamgirls; Maggie Randolph delivered an oh so beautiful "As Long As He Needs Me" from Oliver; Edward Anderson chose his fifth week winning "Make Them Hear You" from Ragtime and Aliya Stuart did "I'm Gonna Get Me a Little Something". All were on equal footing at the time and gave it their very best shot.

In fourth place, Hallie Mayer

In fifth place, Aliya Stuart

In sixth place, Eran Scoggins

One exciting highlight of this year's show was the appearance of pop singer Gary Lynn Floyd who sang a new song "I Am Where I Belong (This Is My Song)". He wrote the music and co-composed the lyrics with producer Michael Sterling. Even more thrilling is that the winner Maggie Randolph will go into the recording studio at some point during 2016 and record this new tune as her very first single. What a terrific new feature!

Thanks to Michael Sterling and his great production team including Associate Producer Peter Welkin, to Susie McGiver Ewing and Joe Giamalva for their dazzling choreography of the Jerry Herman opener "Before the Parade Passes By" from Hello Dolly!, to musical director James Lent, to the great panel of professional judges - made up from LA's top theatre directors, agents and casting directors - for giving of their time, and a special nod to the wonderful Barbara Van Orden for her very generous grant that has made LA's Next Great Stage Star 2026 Presented by Princess Cruises - the only live competition of its kind in LA - such an incredible success.

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Almost a sixth contestant James Padilla

When all six winners were asked Did the last six weeks meet your expectations? the answer was a resounding "Yes!" For all of them it definitely exceeded their wildest dreams and they all learned a lot to take with them. LaRece Hawkins said "I got to be me and to create." Winner Maggie Randolph agreed, saying "I shared a story with a little bit of myself each week." Edward Anderson, totally surprised at his win, talked about how he learned to be an actor via a song and to "own it." Eran Scoggins felt much growth as a performer, as the contest taught him to "stay on his toes" from week to week. Aliya Stuart claimed she got many compliments throughout the six weeks about her vocal instrument, and this taught her to be more confident and to "nurture it." Hallie Mayer was able to put together a great audition book and called the closing night "a great party!", as she had made so many friends amongst the contestants. As a matter of fact, all raved about the warm connections between contestants that they experienced and how weekly critiques from agents and casting directors gave them so much help in succeeding at auditions.

In this contest, there is no such thing as a loser. To prove that even those that don't win are winners, contestant James Padilla couldn't have been happier for his winning team mates and concluded that he's "already won," with so much to take with him into the world of musical theatre in which he, a financier by day, dreams to play a significant part. The best of luck to one and all!

Well, that's it for another year, folks! LA's Next Great Stage Star 2016 Presented by Princess Cruises was a resounding success.

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From This Author Don Grigware