PICS FROM AN 'ASTONISHING' NIGHT WITH 2015'S FIRST VOCALIST CONTEST AT MEDIA THEATRE

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". 
Sue Serio welcomes the crowd to first 2015 Vocalist night
John Whitig, President of Iron Workers Bank--which sponsors The Vocalist--says hello to the audience


K. Whitney Rogers, a Media Theatre Board member, smiles in the lobby at her ballot table where audience members may vote for their favorite contestants

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.
Artistic Director Jesse Cline, the one constant judge, awaits the signal from backstage to go onto the stage
First night ushers Stacey Loehrs with her son Josh Atkinson, who is a contestant in Vocalist Junior

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.
Caroline Adams, 17, of Media,  started the performances off with "Somewhere That's Green"


Grace Atherholt, 19, of York,  performs "Once Upon A Dream"
Feasterville's 16 year old Chessroleeysia Bobb chats with Artistic Director Jesse Cline after her song, "Hero"

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 and Cabaret's "Maybe This Time" from Danielle Lachalle, 24, of Aston). 
Victoria D'Ascenzo (14, Upper Darby) does "A Moment Like This"
The talented Ben Kapilow accompanies the vocalists. There is one rehearsal prior to the show each week 

Ben Kapilow, the show's accompanist, was a highlight of the evening, creating a flow as each singer brought their own signature style to songs both well known and not-so-well-known.
Julia DeGruchy does "Just Keep Moving The Line". She's 19 and from Philadelphia
Brookhaven's 16 year old Thomas Dempsey entertains with "New York, New York"
It's "The Sound of Music" for Amelia Dubendorf, 14, of Delco
Aidan Everly prepares for "16 Going On 17", even though he's 18! He's from Pottstown, getting ready to move to Bloomsburg University

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."
17 year old Troy Gartner with the classic "They Call The Wind Maria" 


"What A Wonderful World" for Aya Geary, 14, of Chadds Ford
Charlene Gonzalez gets "Crazy" with Cee Lo's song. She's 21 and from Media
Jill Hanley "Can't Help Lovin' That Man"

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.
"There Are Worse Things I Could Do" sings Kaelyn Henry, 16, from West Chester
Maggie Kennedy does "Dyin' Ain't So Bad" from Bonnie And Clyde

In one bit of irony in the order of performances, which were not decided by song title at all but rather were put together in alphabetical order, two performers complimented each other as they both--one right after the other--performed songs from The Sound of Music
It's "Maybe This Time" for Danielle Lachall, who has reached the maximum age limit for the Vocalist at 24.
She's from Aston


Erin Lynch, 15, Swarthmore,  is just "Torn"
Paul Mariani III gets into the keyboard while singing "Stay With Me". He started out as a Junior contestant a few years ago and is now 15, living in Ardmore.

"Feelin' Good" for Jacob Mergott. He's 16, from Swarthmore

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."
Camille Mola, 23, Springfield, sings "Superboy & The Invisible Girl".
"I'm Not The Only One" says Abby Pancoast, who is 15 and from Bryn Mawr

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."
Some dance moves from Robert Rinaldo, 24, of Paoli, during "Can't Take My Eyes Off You"


Nicolle Riviello, 15, of Broomall, visits "House of The Rising Sun".
Skyler Shields is "Past The Point of No Return" He's 16 and from Downingtown
Hope Smalley, 18, of Secane, does "Creep"

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.)
Emma Smith, 18, Phoenixville,  does "Happily Ever After". She attends Episcopal Academy


It's "Astonishing" for Lauryn Morgan Thomas. At age 19, she's from Upper Darby. 
Francesca Venecia, 18, Collegeville,  never wants to be "Alone" 

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.  

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