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BWW Reviews: Winning Finale for LA's NEXT GREAT STAGE STAR 2015

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(top photo credit: Bill Dow)

On Sunday, February 8 LA's Next Great Stage Star 2015 came to an exciting conclusion at Sterling's Upstairs at the Federal. 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. After a brief intermission, the announcement was made and each of the six* then proceeded to perform a second number after which the distinguished panel of 15 judges made the final decision. Musical director par excellence James Lent accompanied at the piano throughout the three hour show.

*On an interesting note this year, like last, after the usual five finalists were initially announced, there was another announcement that the judges decided to add a sixth place contestant, which is a legal move within the rules of the competition. Added was Mack Kary.

After another round of singing, the winning order became: in sixth place, Mack Kary; fifth place, Patrick Reilly; fourth place, Claire Adams; third place, Jotape Lockwood: second place, Kelley Dorny and LA's Next Great Stage Star 2015, winner Tory Stolper.

Some of the highlights of the first round were: Elizabeth Adabale's "I'm Here" from The Color Purple, Hajin Cho's "Just Around the River Bend", Kelley Dorny's "Maybe" from Miss Saigon, Alex Allen's dynamic "What Is It About Her?", Hannah Goodman's beautiful "The Light in the Piazza", and Griffin Barr's hilarious "Turn It Off" from The Book of Mormon.

In the second round the six finalists competed with: "Monticello" performed by Mack Kary; "Memphis Lives In Me" from Memphis sung by Patrick Reilly ; Claire Adams sang "Spark of Creation" from Children of Eden; Kelley Dorny did "Bride's Lament" from The Drowsy Chaperone; Tory Stolper performed "One of the Beautiful People" from No Way to Treat a Lady and Jotape Lockwood sang "When I Get My Name in Lights" from Boy from Oz. All were on equal footing at the time and gave it their very best shot.

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 Irving Berlin opener "There's No Business Like Show Business", 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 Barbara Van Orden for her very generous grant that has made LA's Next Great Stage Star - the only live competition of its kind in LA - such a stupendous success. Also, thanks to the Federal kitchen staff for a scrumptious brunch menu and efficient service.

And the winners are:

(in no particular order)

Kelley Dorny

Claire Adams

Jotape Lockwood

Patrick Reilly

Mack Kary

Tory Stolper

When asked their goals for the future, all six winners expressed the desire to spend their lives acting in theatre. Kelley Dorny has had experience in New York as well as LA and recently recorded Serial Killer Barbie, a new hit musical that played the NoHo Arts Center to great acclaim. Tory Stolper graduated USC having played the very challenging role of Mrs. Lovett in Sweeney Todd and is now making her living as a professional photographer. She came back to the stage with this competition and realized just how very much she has been missing. Her consistently amazing performances from week to week won her the award. Both are in prime condition for new and exciting stage roles.

Did the last six weeks meet their expectations?

For all of them it definitely exceeded their wildest dreams and they all learned a lot to take with them. Jotape Lockwood who wants to excel at "everything" was blown away by the level of competition. Patrick Reilly and Claire Adams, both seniors at USC, are planning to go to New York. They learned things like how to play a character through song and to pay attention to the "content of a song and filling in the spaces". Mack Kary said it best when he stated that he has learned to "stay in the moment" and to "let yourself go on this journey with the song". All raved about the comraderie they experienced and how weekly critiques from agents and casting directors gave them so much help in succeeding at auditions.

Well, that's it for another year, folks! Barbara Van Orden assured me that she and the team will be meeting within a couple of weeks to start early preparations for LA's Next Great Stage Star 2016, which promises to be even better! Stay tuned!


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