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LA's Next Great Stage Star Competition Digs Deep into New Music

Contestants in LA's Next Great Stage Star competition had an exciting second week on Sunday, January 12th. The theme for this round was Breaking New Ground - A Little New Music, and featured songs from some of today's most up and coming musical theatre writers. Unlike the first week in which each singer chose his or her own material, a song was given to them to learn by associate producer and new musical theatre expert, Peter Welkin. Peter is part of the producing team for the cabaret series A Little New Music at Rockwell Table and Stage and has many years of experience developing musicals for the Academy of New Musical Theatre.

By its very nature, new music is less familiar than the standard catalogue of Broadway musical songs and that can make it challenging for a young singer appearing in front of a panel of judges for the first time. This week's industry judges included TV, film & theatre casting director Michael Donavan, choreographer & director Lee Martino, and award-winning director David Galligan, who offered their professional opinions following each performance.

So how did the contestants do? At the end of the day Welkin said, "I think they did remarkably well. It was a mixed bag of responses from the audience and judges but I think that the singers got a lot of benefit out of it. Last week much of the feedback was about their acting. The judges commented that there was a lot of beautiful singing but they wanted them to think more about their interpretation: where's this moment, where's the emotion, who are you talking to... all of the acting homework you have to supply as the actor singing the song that makes it connect to an audience.

This week I thought they actually dug in deeper and found their acting moments much more clearly than they had before. I think the first week they were going on assumptions about how things should be played. This time they had to figure them out for themselves, and as a result, they received feedback on their performance in the room that was very specific. They weren't being compared to anyone else who may have sung the song previously."

Bryan Blaskie, music director for week 2, and also a producer & music director for A Little New Music, added that the experience was an unusual one for him. "I've had the privilege of already playing all of this new music as part of our Rockwell series but what's weird is sitting at the piano while everyone is being critiqued. I'm watching the actors take all this information in, knowing the rehearsal we've put into their songs, and knowing whether or not the comments addressed things we worked on in rehearsal or if they were about something we didn't even think about. A lot of times there were choices we made that directly contradicted the feedback from the judges. When I work with these actors in rehearsal I tell them these are all suggestions. You're not going to please everybody so do what you think is best and go with it. We're all going to disagree. You even saw some of the judges disagree with each other. With only 3½ minutes to impress the audience, every decision counts."

Round 3 of LA's Next Great Stage Star competition continues on Sunday, January 19th and will feature the music of Richard Rodgers & Oscar Hammerstein and Richard Rodgers & Lorenz Hart. For reservations call (818) 754-8700. For more information about LA's Next Great Stage Star and Sterling's Upstairs at the Federal, visit

And if you're interested in the contestants' new songs presented this week, here's what you missed.

Jessica Apperson: "Alive" by Curtis Rhodes (music) & Leslie Becker (lyrics) from A Proper Place

Alexandra Arthur: "Get Out There and Dance" by Craig Bohmler (music) & Marion Adler (lyrics) from All The More To Love

Michael Byrne: "Caralee" by Ryan Scott Oliver (music & lyrics) from 35MM

Matthew Campanella: "The Man I Never Knew" by Chris Miller (music) & Nathan Tysen (lyrics) from The Burnt Part Boys

Cy Creamer: "That Was Me" by Erik Prztylski (music & lyrics)

Sevan Dekmezian: "Where Nobody Knows Your Name" by Jay Kuo (music & lyrics) from Wrrk

Jordan Michelle DeLeon: "Here We Go Again" by Gregory Nabours (music & lyrics) from The Trouble With Words

Katrice Gavino: "Saturday Alone" by Barry Wyner (music & lyrics) from Calvin Berger

Kimberly Hessler: "She's Lovely" by Matthew Levine (music) and Hillary Rollins (lyrics)

Jade Johnson: "Pretty Funny" by Benj Pasek (music) & Justin Paul (lyrics) from Dogfight

Amanda Knight: "A Lasting Impression" by Zoe Sarnak (music & lyrics) from A Lasting Impression

Brandon Hynum: "Global Warming" by Drew Fornarola (music & lyrics)

Jennifer Kranz: "Summer Fling" by Jeff Thomson (music) & Jordan Mann (lyrics)

Travis Leland: "Flying Round the Moon" by Michael Finke (music & lyrics) from Caroline & George

Daniella Painton: "I'll Be Here" by Adam Gwon (music & lyrics) from Ordinary Days

Kathleen Porter: "Still I Rise" by Carmel Dean (music) & Sarah Underwood (lyrics) Project: Song Blog

Cameron Sczempka "Town Goes Boom" by Chris Miller (music) & Nathan Tysen (lyrics)

Katherine Tracy: "The Things We'll Never Do" by Will Collyer (music) & Molly Reynolds (lyrics) from The Gingerbread Pimp

Adrienne Visnic: "All of My Friends: by Drew Fornarola (music & lyrics)

Jared Andrew Warren: "No One Goes to An Amusement Park Alone" by Carmel Dean (music) & Sarah Underwood (lyrics) Project: Song Blog

For more Los Angeles Musical Theatre News follow @MusicalsinLA on Twitter.

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