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Cabaret Review (LA): Sibling Rivalry by Cristina and Matthew Ballestero at Sterling’s Upstairs at Vitello’s

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Every year Michael Sterling of Sterling’s Upstairs at Vitello’s, the premiere supper club in Los Angeles, holds a contest for LA’s Next Great Stage Star. This contest gives young hopefuls who are trying to break into the business or who want to move to a higher level (like getting an agent) a chance to show their stuff. The contest was held at the first of the year and the top competitors are awarded a night all to themselves at the supper club. This usually takes a few months to prepare and since most of the hopefuls have never performed an act before, the experience can be quite a challenge.

This year a unique situation occurred where two siblings competed in the same contest. Cristina and Matthew Ballestero decided to perform together. Cristina, who is a songwriter, actress, model, dancer, and producer as well, comes from musical theatre, but at one point in her career she was part of an all-female pop recording group. Her voice is a pop voice and her selections reflected their vocal abilities. These included “The Voice Within” by Cristina Aguilera, “Here I Am” from David Yazbek’s Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, a beautiful song by Scott Alan called “If I Own Today,” and her own composition which was released as a pop single, “Let Go.” She has a strong voice and is able to do all the vocal tricks that come with singing pop. I prefer more simple and direct singing but this girl has a set of pipes!

Her brother Matthew is a whole different kettle of fish. He has a rich and even more powerful singing voice that suits musical comedy to a tee. His selections included a song from the hit Broadway Show The Book of Mormon, “Man UP,” “Unexpressed” by John Bucchino, “To Excess” by Christopher Diamond and Michael Kooman, “Big Strong and Beautiful” (a comment on his “full figure”) by Marc Shaiman, and a surprise choice of “I Am Changing” from Dreamgirls, but then why not.

These talented siblings, two of ten children, also sang several duets including ”It’s Today” by Jerry Herman, “I Will Never Leave You” by Keiger and Russel, a Disney medley of Menken and Schwartz’s “Colors of the Wind,” Alan Menken’s “I Can Go The Distance,” and “Out There” again by Menken and Schwartz. They sang a touching tribute to their parents, “The Prayer” by Sager and Foster. They also exploited so-called “sibling rivalry” with “Anything You Can Do I Can Do Better” by Irving Berlin and “You and Me But Mostly Me,” again from The Book of Mormon. They ended with “Everything’s Coming Up Roses” and “I’m A Star.”

Well let’s hope those “Roses” keep coming because they have definite star possibilities. As a result of the competition called LA’s Next Great Stage Star, they both signed with agents. The Ballesteros performed on September 11 at Sterling’s Upstairs at Vitello’s.

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