Thursday, July 14, 2016


Curtain up! Well...there was no curtain, but each singer had plenty of poise, personality, and--with some selections--pizzazz during week two of "The Vocalist" at The Media Theatre.

For the second round, the contestants gave it their all in backwards alphabetical order having performed in an opposite line up last week. This means that those who sat and waited to perform for an hour or two last week were able to sing first, with those who started off the contest a week ago waiting in the wings.
Actor Kelly Briggs, who emcees "The Vocalist" now thru August 10
As Jesse Cline, the theatre's Artistic Director and the one constant judge throughout "Vocalist", reminded them: "Yes, this is a contest. But it's first and foremost a learning experience which allows each Vocalist an opportunity to gain confidence on a professional stage each week during the summer." 

No contestants are eliminated until after Week Four, prior to the Semi-Finals and Finals. Ben Kapilow is the accompanist.

Kelly Briggs, who has appeared in Broadway's "Les Miserables" and "Cats" as well as several National Tours, emceed with a welcoming warmth, with a nice mix of professional flair and a friendly, casual presence. He's been on The Media Theatre stage plenty of times, co-starring in "Hello Dolly" with Andrea McArdle, and in "Gypsy" with Krissy Fraelich. He's also been seen in Media's "Billy Elliot", "Les Miserables", and "Mame". 
Week Two Guest Judges Eric Golden, the CFO of Iron Workers Bank
which is the "Vocalist" title sponsor;
 and Dancer/ Choreographer Lydia Krull

Each contestant seemed a bit more relaxed, having gotten over much anxiety from week one. Their unique sense of style and performance came through. Examples of this were Sarah Korbel's 'elevator' shoes and lovely costume as she performed "Burn" from the Tony winning musical "Hamilton"; Hope Smalley's folksy rendition of Sia's "Alive", for which she accompanied herself on the guitar; Paul Mariani III's interpretation of The Beatles "Lady Madonna"; Carrie Hytha's humorous "Taylor The Latte Boy"; Troy Gartner's heartfelt "Real Live Girl"; William Fay's soulful "Stand By Me"; Aidan Curry's "Luck Be A Lady" during which he dressed as a miniature Nathan Detroit; and Alexandra Battisti's "Out Here On My Own" in which she proved her ability to belt. 
Sarah Korbel, who did Hamilton's "Burn"
Hope Smalley, with Sia's "Alive"
Paul Mariani III enjoys his chat with Jesse Cline about "Lady Madonna"
Carrie Hytha gets to know "Taylor The Latte Boy"

Troy Gartner waits for a "Real Live Girl"
William Fay does the classic "Stand By Me"
Nathan Detroit....actually it's Aidan Curry....does "Luck Be A Lady"
She's "Out Here On My Own". It's Angela Battisti

There was plenty of poise also, with Paul Vink's "Impossible Dream" during which he forgot lyrics but still held his focus and finished the song; Molly Sorensen's "Fallin'" sung with a lovely straightforwardness; Sophia Newton's "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow" performed like a young Carole King; Kate Goodrich's "Mama Who Bore Me" from the musical "Spring Awakening"; Moses Gonzalez' taking on "Love Will Remember"; Jake Faragelli's professionally done "Neverland"; Tori D'Ascenzo's interpretaion of Whitney Houston's "I Look To You"; Larissa Culbertson's focused "Oh Miss Believer"; Emma Costello's extremely high soprano "When You're Away"; and Jacob Mergott's rendition of Elton John's "Your Song", in which at one point he started singing a phrase early and simply said "Oops, not yet" and continued the song with great ease.
Paul Vink , with "Impossible Dream"

Molly Sorensen does "Fallin'"
Sophie Newton channels Carole King with "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow"
Kate Goodrich with "Mama Who Bore Me"
"Love Will Remember" done by Moses Gonzalez
Jake Faragalli, with "Neverland"
Tori D'Ascenzo does "I Look To You"
Oh Miss Believer! Larissa Culbertson
When You're Away sings Emma Costello
Jake Mergott channels Elton John with "Your Song"
And then there was the pizzazz ingredient. This was given highlight by Matt Tierney, who catapulted through Beyonce's "Listen"; Alli Sutton, as she shook the chandeliers with "Perfect Relationship"; Kaliegh Kahan taking on "Maybe This Time" from "Cabaret" dressed as a young Liza Minnelli; Toni Huegel's radio ready romp through "Rise Up"; Elaine Ficarra's interpretation of "You'll Never Walk Alone"; Lauren Faulkner's fun "Popular"; Kyleigh Bleacher's country "I Can't Make You Love Me" during which she wore what looked like someone would wear on the Grand Ole Opry stage; and Alexia Alvarez also taking on the song "Burn", while accompanying herself on the piano. 
Matt Tierney wants us to "Listen"

Alli Sutton flies with "Perfect Relationship"
Kaliegh Kahan wishes it's "Maybe This Time"
Toni Huegel "Rise Up"
"You'll Never Walk Alone" by Elaine Ficarra
"I Can't Make You Love Me" says Kyleigh Bleacher
Alexia Alvarez plays and sings "Burn"

The three ingredients--personality, poise, and pizzazz--were evident with the young performers, although each individual showcased one over the other with their song selections. They're all talented in their own way, igniting enthusiastic applause from the appreciative audience. As Kelly Briggs stated, "Wow! These are young people just starting out? It's unbelievable, as they seem like seasoned professionals."

One of the evening's highlights is each singer's chat with Cline following their performance. This is completely unrehearsed, and one never knows what they'll say. Paul Mariani III brought the house down when he was asked "What is the song "Lady Madonna" about?" to which, after trying to explain for almost two minutes, he finally responded with "There are many conspiracy theories about the song." 

Cline also tries his best to assist with educating the performers, even telling two of them that their song choices did not suit their age and that, as they move forward, perhaps they should keep that in mind. 

To see "The Vocalist", which runs is on Wednesday nights at 7pm now through August 10, call 610-891-0100 or visit It's basically the cost of a movie at your local cineplex and offers much more spontaneity with courage and talent on display.

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