Thursday, July 28, 2016


After four weeks of Wednesday night performances during The Media Theatre's annual summer singing competition, "The Vocalist", the Top 20 Semi-Finalists have been chosen. 

The Top 20 were lifted into the Semi-Finals, which take place Wednesday August 3 at 7pm, by both Judges' Scores and Online & Public Votes. The Scores and Votes were accumulated during the past four weeks. 
The 2016 "Vocalist" Top 20: Back Row-Troy Gartner, Paul Vink, Elaine Ficarra, Jacob Mergott.
Midde-Emma Costello, Alexandra Battisti, Jake Faragalli, William Fay, Alli Sutton, Alexia Alvarez, Toni Huegel
Front-Paul Mariani III, Kaleigh Kahan, Tori D'Ascenzo, Carrie Hytha, Molly Sorensen, Sarah Korbel,
Lauren Faulkner, Aiden Curry
The Judges' Scores account for the largest percentage of a contestant's score, and additional points are added from the Online & Public Voting process (which is $2 per vote). Those with the most Online & Public Votes receive extra points added to their Judges' Scores. For example, the "Vocalist" with the most Online & Public Votes after four weeks received 30 extra points toward their Score. The "Vocalist" with the second greatest amount of Online & Public Votes received 25 extra points, while the third highest Online & Public Vote-getter was given 20 extra points toward their score. Those who made up the rest of the top ten Online & Public Votes were given 15 more points toward their Judges' Score. 

The Judges rank the contestants as they watch them in three different categories: Vocal Ability, Stage Presence, and Song Choice. The three Judges' categories are rated on a scale from 1 (low score) to 10 (high score). So, in theory, each Vocalist is able to receive a perfect score each week of 30 from one judge. The lowest score a Vocalist could receive from a judge would be 3. 

Jesse Cline, the theatre's Artistic Director and the competition's main judge who is onstage each week with the contestants, has an extra category: Individualism. This category rates the contestants on their unique ability to entertain, to grow each week, and is somewhat applicable to that often un-explainable "X" factor a casting director looks for when putting a cast together for a production. So, the most points a contestant could gain each week from Cline would be 40, with the least amount being 4.

The Judges' Scores were added first, with a running tabulation during the four weeks. Following that, after the Online & Public voting ended after intermission of the fourth week, the extra points were added from the Online & Public voting.  If there were any ties from the Judges' Scores, or close scoring, this is where the Online & Public votes carry weight. The Online & Public votes may boost someone into the next round.

Now that the Top 20 "Vocalist" contestants have been chosen, all contestant's scores who are still in the competition go back down to zero. All previous Judges' Scores and Online & Public Votes have been erased, so that the Top 20 start fresh on a level playing ground. 

Song choices, vocal ability, and stage presence will now carry even more weight during the Semi-Finals, as only the top three Online & Public vote-getters will receive extra points toward their Judges' Score heading into the Finals. 

The 2016 "Vocalist" Top 20 headed into the Semi-Finals are:                                       Alexia Alvarez, 14, Media; Alexandra Battisti, 14 of Malvern; Emma Costello, 14, West Chester; Aidan Curry, 14, Broomall; Tori D’Ascenzo, 15, Delco; Lauren Faulkner, 15, Glenolden; Jake Faragalli, 14, NJ; William Fay, 16, Boothwyn; Elaine Ficarra, 15, Glenmoore; Troy Gartner, 18, Paoli; Moses Gonzalez, 21, Woodlyn; Toni Huegel, 14, Springfield; Carrie Hytha, 21, Phoenixville; Kaliegh Kahan, 16, Cochranville; Sarah Korbel, 17, Wayne; Paul Mariani III, 16, Ardmore; Jacob Mergott, 17, of Swarthmore; Molly Sorensen, 15, Malvern; Allison Sutton, 16, Hatboro; and Paul Vink, 14, of West Chester.


Another view of the Top 20

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.

Monday, July 11, 2016


The Media Theatre's 2016 edition of "Vocalist Junior" opened Sunday July 10 to an enthusiastic crowd. The weekly event, now through August August 14, gives audiences an opportunity to see and hear up and coming talent. The performers, aged 7-13, get a rare chance to perform on a professional music theatre stage for large crowds singing the song of their choice each week.

Jesse Cline, the Artistic Director for the Media Theatre, explained to the audience and the vocalists that while it is a competition, and one of them will eventually become the Vocalist Junior winner, it is first and foremost an educational opportunity for the young singers. No one is eliminated until after week four, as it moves into the Semi-Finals and Finals.
Andrew DePaul, one of the judges for "Vocalist Junior" opening night.
He is a Camp Media Theatre Assistant Manager 
The opening week had plenty of Broadway songs for the audience to enjoy, with a large percentage of the vocalists mentioning that Broadway is a main goal where they hope to perform someday. Songs were performed from "Shrek", "Les Miserables", "The Secret Garden", "Oliver!", "Aida", "Newsies", and "Fun Home". Two performers chose songs from the hit musical "Matilda" and one brought back a classic from "Godspell", even dressed as a hippie to add to the feel of her song choice.

But not all of the young singers did Broadway. There were interesting choices such as the pop song "Black Horse and A Cherry Tree" and even one tiny rapper who brought the house down with Eminem's "Lose Yourself". 
Hedgerow Theatre's Susan Wefel, who emceed,
with The Media Theatre's Artistic Director Jesse Cline

Susan Wefel, a 36 year veteran of the Hedgerow Theatre who often performs at The Media Theatre, emceed. She's back on Media's stage in January and February of 2017 during the upcoming season in "Romeo and Juliet". She will play the Nurse in the production. Wefel has worked with several of the "Vocalist Junior" contestants, having appeared in Media's "Billy Elliot" this past holiday season. 

Cline is the one constant judge throughout the contest, sitting on stage left each week. He chats with the singers after they perform, adding to the entertainment value as the conversations are completely unrehearsed. Two judges assisted Cline, sitting in the audience with their ballots. They were Andrew DePaul, a student at Gettysburg College and Camp Media Theatre Assistant Manager, and John Whitig. Whitig is the President of Iron Workers Bank which sponsors the annual event.

For tickets to "Vocalist Junior" visit or call 610-891-0100. It's just $12 for children and $15 for adults and is a unique way to spend a Sunday evening through August 14. 

Online voting for your favorite contestant is also available for $2 per vote. After the fourth week, all votes are tabulated and those with the most online votes receive extra points added to the judges' scores. It's a fundraising opportunity for the theatre and allows the public to have a say in who might move forward to the Semi-Finals.


Josh Atkinson started the show,
as the entertainers appeared in alphabetical order via their last name.
He did "Build A Wall" from Shrek

Matthew Bentley sings "New York State of Mind"

Jada   Bochanski, "House of Gold"
Shannon Clark, "Castle On A Cloud" from Les Miz
Joseph Colasante, "Seize the Day" from Newsies
Grace Curry does Toy Story 2's "When She Loved Me"
Cara Furchner, "Where Is Love" from Oliver
Veronica Garrubbo, "Killer Instinct" from Legally Blonde
Bridget Henry, "Naughty" from Matilda
Hayley Hughes
Ava Kelly, "Light of the World" from Godspell
Skylar Kelly, Ava's twin, does "The Fight Song"
Khadijah King, "Do You Wanna Build A Snowman?" from Frozen
Sadie Lock, "Disneyland"
Natalie Mancini, "Fly"
Carly McGuinn, "Black Horse and A Cherry Tree"
Fiona Moser, "The World Above"
Amanda Shaughnessy, "I Know The Truth"
Mary Kate Vink, "The Girl I Mean To Be" from Secret Garden
Brynn Washbourne, "Ring of Keys" from Fun Home
Abigail White, "Quiet" from Matilda
Carter Weiss, "Lose Yourself" by Eminem
Violet Wiley, "Part of Your World" from The Little Mermaid


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