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LA’s “Next Great Stage Star” Contest Heats Up the Winter

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January 8 marked the beginning of the sixth year of LA’s Next Great Stage Star series, held at Sterling’s Upstairs at Vitello’s. At the finale on February 12, the winner will be chosen from the five finalists.

Auditions started on December 10-11 when a whole slew of contestants vied for one of the coveted top 20 positions. These 20 compete until the finale, when only five contestants remain. They are judged by a rotating panel of judges consisting of casting directors, musical theatre producers/directors/writers, and Equity department theatre agents. Except for the finale, the audience is invited to vote for their favorites.

This year’s contestants are:

Lauren Leigh Barker, James Blashaw, Taylor Courtney, Chelsea Emma Franko, Melody Goodell, Demaree Hill, Tyler Hodges, Justine Huxley, David Michael Laffey, Katrina Lauren McGraw, Brett McMahon, Harrison Meloeny, Tyson Pyles, Monica Quinn, Scott Reardon, Tyler Scheef, Caroline St. Louis, Adrienne Storrs, Jessica Withers, and Josie Yount.

The musical director is the very talented James Lent. The first week the contestants sing a song of their own choosing. The second and third week they are asked to present a pre-1970 song and the next week a post-1970 number. The fourth week is composer week during which the contestants must sing a song by the chosen composer. The fifth week is again a song of their own choosing and, if chosen for the finale, their best song.

What exactly do they win? The winner gets a $1,000 check, a photo session by Robert Douglas, and an overnight stay at the Sheraton Universal which includes a fancy dinner when they return to Vitello’s for a lucrative headlining debut at Sterling’s Upstairs. The four remaining finalists will also receive a chance to headline in their own show at Sterling’s, and the runner-up receives the hotel and dinner package at the Sheraton Universal the night of his or her debut at Sterling’s.

Michael Sterling and Tony Monsour are the producers of these events, and the local personality Barbara Van Orden, who has had quite a career in show business including opening for Frank Sinatra at the Persian Room at the Plaza in New York, has provided an underwriting grant. As for the talents of these 20 hopefuls, they were all terrific, and I don’t envy the judges. I was once again impressed by the breadth of talent in Los Angeles. These events may very well be sold out but there is no harm in trying. It would be worth the trouble. LA’s Next Great Stage Star is happening at Sterling’s Upstairs at Vitello’s.

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