Media Theatre's 2015 'Vocalist' Contest Kicks Off
Fox-TV Channel 29's super weather anchor, Sue Serio, has a knack for calling it like she sees it when it comes to The Media Theatre's "Vocalist" contest. Having emceed the popular summer singing competition for several years, Serio opened the year's event once again. With her warm, welcoming spirit and terrific connection to the enthusiastic audience, Serio said the night's show was "Astonishing".
The word did not flow to her mind randomly, however. Upper Darby's Lauryn Morgan Thomas, 19, performed the song "Astonishing" from the musical Little Women as the second to last performer of the night. Serio immediately titled the evening "Astonishing" to which everyone in the theatre applauded.
Serio was, perhaps, entranced by the 28 talented and confident vocalists who seemed to have none of the usual opening night jitters which have vexed previous contestants.With songs ranging from classic pop (Heart's "Alone" sung powerfully by Francesca Venecia, 18, of Collegeville) to contemporary hits (two Sam Smith i-tunes songs--one done by Bryn Mawr's 15 year old Abby Pancoast and another performed by Ardmore's 15 year old Paul Mariani III) as well as classic Broadway (Paint Your Wagon's "They Call The Wind Maria" interpreted with aplomb by 17 year old Troy Gartner of Paoli) to contemporary Broadway (Next to Normal's"Super Boy & The Invisible Girl", in a high voltage performance by Camille Mola, 23, of Springfield) the entire evening was certainly true to Serio's description.
There were splendid moments of simple arrangements in which the vocalists connected to the material as if the songs were written for them ("Dyin' Ain't So Bad" by Malvern's Maggie Kennedy, 18, from the musical Bonnie and Clyde andCabaret's "Maybe This Time" from Danielle Lachalle, 24, of Aston).
Jesse Cline, the theatre's Artistic Director, who is the one constant judge throughout the competition, remarked on the individual performances. "We have been doing this summer event for several years," he said. "But I have to say this group of contestants is probably one of the most honest in their performances we have ever seen."
Cline was obviously happy with Thomas Dempsey, 16, of Brookhaven, who did a knock-out version of Sinatra's big hit "New York, New York". After the song, Cline said to Dempsey, "Roger (Ricker) will be in touch with you about auditioning for our upcoming show Gypsy. You really need to come to the audition." The crowd applauded, encouraging Dempsey and in agreement with Cline's assessment.
A subtitle for the evening very well could have been "Feeling Good" as each vocalist seemingly leapt onto the stage, wholeheartedly and unselfishly wanting to share their songs with the audience. Jacob Mergott, 16 of Swarthmore, performed "Feeling Good" to which Cline said "You performed that unlike anyone else I have heard. Good for you! You brought your own life to it."
Cline did a bit of an unrehearsed chat with each performer. To some, he would ask "What does this song mean?" and to others "Why did you choose this song?". Their responses were memorable and meaningful.Charlene Gonzalez, 21, of Media, did Cee Lo Green's big hit "Crazy". In answering Cline's question, she said "Sometimes we all go through times in which we don't really know what is happening. We think we're a bit off, but there is always someone crazier than we are. So really we're all the same."
The first week of "The Vocalist 2015" at The Media Theatre proved her point in the fact that every contestant is truly talented and unique in their own way. (Not one performer sang off-pitch or forgot lyrics, by the way--which is a first for the competition.)
So, if you would like to be a part of an "Astonishing" vocal competition and cheer on your favorite contestants, get tickets to "The Vocalist" at mediatheatre.org or call 610-891-0100. Live streaming of the Wednesday night event is available for $15 per week. Tickets are $12-15.You may also vote for your favorite contestant for $2 per vote and support the program at the same time. Each vote adds up and may assist a few lucky contestants in moving forward after eliminations are made following week three.Sue Serio will be back for the final week. Bill Vargus will emcee weeks two, three, and four.