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On Sunday, June 30 LA's Next Great Stage Star 2019 Presented by Princess Cruises came to a conclusion on the Debbie Reynolds Mainstage of the El Portal Theatre in NoHo. After a 90-minute program in which this year's 12 contestants* gave 150% to their monologues and songs from Broadway shows, eight contestants were eliminated and the top four finalists were selected. There was a problem in that in collecting the ballots, there was only a majority for 2 contestants. Audience and judges were alerted, time was alloted and ballots were collected once more to pick the other 2 contestants. This added a good half hour to the proceedings. Then each of the four proceeded to perform a second number after which the distinguished panel of judges made the final decision. Musical director par excellence Jennifer Lin accompanied at the piano throughout the nearly three hour show.

After the finalists' round of singing, the winning order became: in fourth place, SonnyLira; third place, Lucas Blankenhorn, second place, Molly Livingston and LA's Next Great Stage Star 2019, winner Chloe Haven.

In the second round the four finalists competed with: Chloe Haven offering an astounding "Somewhere That's Green" from Little Shop of Horrors, usually the winning choice in any contest. All four were terrific and gave it their best shot. There really are no losers in the competition, every one of the twelve is a winner!

An addition to the contest this year was a real dance audition with all 12 contestants learning the steps for the first time in front of a live audience. Then in groups of three, the contestants repeated the set from the top. It gave them a chance to feel what an actual dance audition is like, as well as showing the audience just how much effort the contestants must exude.

Three guest judges joined the others this year for the finale: actor David Gaines, actor/artistic director of 5 Star Theatricals Patrick Cassidy and current Broadway actor Derek Klena, who was a runnerup in this contest in 2010. These guys were delightful in entertaining the audience while the ballots were tabulated.

When I asked the four winners the question: If you had to mention just one thing that you learned over the last six weeks that you consider of the utmost value to your future career in musical theatre, what would that be? ... each mentioned the sense of community and friendship that existed among all of the contestants. They also emphasized how they learned to choose the right material and put together a portfolio. I have included one exciting quote from five of the contestants. The best of luck to one and all!

First Place is Chloe Haven

"Trust in yourself. I am really weird and I needed to solidify that."

Second Place is Molly Livingston

"There's nothing more powerful than a strong perceptive on your material."

Third Place is Lucas Blankenhorn

"Listen to your feedback and pay attention to how you make the audience feel."

Here are reactions from two who came close to winning:

"It's not winning or losing that matters. The whole experience counts." - Scott Senior

"Work week in, week out and turn your hurdles into strengths." - Chris Thume

Thanks to Michael Sterling and his great production team including Associate Producer Peter Welkin, to Justin Michael Wilcox who served once more as a talk.a.mile.a.minute, devilishly comedic host for the full six weeks, to Karl Warden for his flashy choreography of the opening number "It's Not Where You Start, It's Where You Finish", to musical director Jennifer Lin, 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 inspirational Barbara Van Orden for her very generous grant that has made LA's Next Great Stage Star 2019 Presented by Princess Cruises - the only live competition of its kind in LA - such a great success.

Well, that's it for LA's Next Great Stage Star 2019 Presented by Princess Cruises!

*(12 Contestants in no special order were: Lucas Blankenhorn, Tara Cox, Molly Grant, Chloe Haven, Thomas Hollow, Sonny Lira, Molly Livingston, Jimmy Marino, Ellie Oliver, Audrey Pennington, Scott Senior, Christoper J. Thume)

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