Media Theatre's Vocalist Contest Names Top 15

Pressure can be defined as 'the stress or urgency of matters demanding attention'. Nothing demanded more attention to 25 young singers Wednesday night July 30 more than "The Vocalist" contest at The Media Theatre. They knew at the end of the night only 15 would return for the "Vocalist" finals on August 6.

The evening started off well enough with the vocalists gathering together to say 'hi', to catch up with each other after a week away, and to chat about their song choices.

Once the show started, however, it was obvious that the 25 were feeling the pressure. With the understanding that 10 of them were going to be eliminated after the show, and knowing that the judges' scores would be tabulated with public votes to come up with the eventual and inevitable outcome, the nerves started to show on stage.

At least four performers either forgot lyrics or asked to start over after singing a few bars. Some strong vocalists faltered a bit on difficult phrases or tried hard to push themselves into performance territory they usually do not venture into by singing outside their comfort zone. Others stuck to what is familiar to them, beginning to craft their own brand of performance.

"The Vocalist" is, after all, as the theatre's Artistic Director Jesse Cline reminds the audience week after week "An educational opportunity as well as a contest."

All in all it was a strong evening of varied choices and a few songs audiences are not privy to hearing often such as numbers made popular by Britney Spears (which was done acoustically) or from shows like "Drowsy Chaperone".

As is the norm, no specific 'theme' is given to the singers prior to the week's competition. Each chooses their own song, rehearses once with the pianist two nights before the show, and then performs it in front of the audience.

But it seemed as if there might have been a 'theme' unconsciously filtered among the ladies. Three of them, for some reason, randomly chose songs from the classic musical "Funny Girl". They were Kasey Brown, Anastasia Korbal, and Alyssa Massarella. Almost all of the ladies in the contest did Broadway tunes during the semi-final round.

The young men, as if they themselves had chosen their own 'theme', seemed fixated on psychological issues with songs like "Demon" and "This Is The Moment" which is the big anthem from Jekyll and Hyde: The Musical. Moses Gonzalez, who performed Imagine Dragons' big hit, said to the audience that 'everyone here in this room is filled with demons' to which Cline replied, "Everyone? Must be a tough crowd!"

Thomas Lock, 15, of Malvern, went in the opposite direction, however. Rather than belting his way through a song or singing a number generally performed by someone twice his age, the young man decided on the sweet and simple "Proud Of Your Boy" from Disney's Broadway hit "Aladdin". It was a direct contrast to the other choices made by the young men in the contest, gaining strong audience reaction.

As the night was coming to a close, emcee Sue Serio reminded the audience what a great job all of the 25 contestants did. "It must have been difficult for the judges," she said. Serio is familiar with the aformentioned 'pressure' as she is on FOX-TV's "Good Day Philadelphia" every weekday morning in front of a camera for several hours, reporting weather updates. She knows that anything can happen during a live show and is great at easing the pressure these young contestants might be feeling. "They felt the tension but have a great way of moving beyond it," she said.

The Top 15 who will move beyond the previous four weeks and enter "The Vocalist" 2014 Final Round are:Kasey Brown, 17, Wilmington DE; Rhiannon Charney, 17, Boothwyn; Amber Duncan, 15, Wallingford; Moses Gonzalez, 19, Woodlyn; Lauren Henninger, 16, Philadelphia; Anastasia Korbal, 14, Riverton NJ; Thomas Lock, 15, Malvern; Paul Mariani III, 14, Ardmore; Abby Pancoast, 14, Broomall; Julia Richter, 15, Phoenixville; Robert Rinaldo, 23, Paoli; Shaelyn Ruddy, 21, Chadds Ford; Marti Salmon, 15, Woodbury NJ; Ava Sullivan, 15, Newtown Square; and Michael Walczak, 16, of Glenolden.

For Tickets to the Final round of the 2014 "Vocalist" contest, which is also a unique concert, call 610-891-0100 or The "Vocalist" is sponsored by Iron Workers Bank.

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