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Tuesday, Jun. 17, 2014

Top high school singers advance to KC SuperStar finals

Special to The Star

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KC SuperStar finalists

St. Thomas Aquinas graduate Grant Mayfield sang “Say Something.”

Olathe East graduate Justus Johnson sang “I Wanna Dance With Somebody.”

Blue Valley West student Kate Cosentino sang “Jolene.”

Blue Valley Northwest graduate Keith Klein sang “Fly Me to The Moon.”

Shawnee Mission North student Maggie Marx sang “Hero.”

Blue Springs High School graduate Malena Marcase sang “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”

Blue Valley North student Paris Naster sang “We Belong.”

Wyandotte High School student Prince Russell Johnson sang “Funny Valentine.”

Blue Springs Freshman Center student Tessa Hake sang “Nightingale.”

Olathe Northwest graduate Wyatt McCall sang “Counting Stars.”

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KC SuperStar semi-finals at the Jewish Community Center this week took on an atmosphere reminiscent of political conventions, complete with signs, placards, buttons and energetic supporters cheering on their favorites.

“The audience was fantastic. The largest we’ve ever had and certainly one of the most exuberant to fill White Theatre and the adjacent overflow room,” said Tammy Ruder, who has produced all five of the SuperStar competitions, where area high school singers vie for scholarships.

“We had a wonderful group of contestants, equally divided for the first time between boys and girls, with a great variety of singers, crooners, country singers, about every style imaginable,” she said. “They made it hard on the judges who had to pick 10 finalists.”

The 10 who will compete for the top $10,000 scholarship in the “American Idol”-style event were selected from 24 semi-finalists by a three-judge panel. An audience will choose the 2014 KC SuperStar at the finals Aug. 24 in Yardley Hall at Johnson County Community College. Second place receives a $5,000 scholarship, third a $2,500 scholarship and fourth a $1,000 scholarship. The other six finalists receive $500 scholarships.

Tim Bair, producing artistic director of The Theatre in the Park and one of the judges, said selecting the final 10 was difficult. “They were all so talented, all had wonderful voices. There were so many diverse styles,” Bair said. “One girl (Malena Marcase) sang ‘Over The Rainbow’ while playing a ukulele. I loved it.

“I kept thinking, ‘Where do all these talented kids come from? Why aren’t they at The Theatre in the Park?’ I may start recruiting some of them,” Bair said with a laugh.

The other judges were Chris McCoy, a local theater director, and Julie O’Rourke-Kaul, a professional performer.

Felice Azorsky, the KC SuperStar coordinator, was excited about the audience enthusiasm. “I think contestants feed off audience energy and this audience was incredibly supportive. The best I’ve seen,” Azorsky said. “We had such a talented group. All 24 semi-finalists were talented, not just the 10 finalists. They didn’t make it easy on the judges.”

Maggie Marx, a Shawnee Mission Northwest senior who placed second last year and was made the top 10 again this year, was impressed with the competition.

“The talent keeps getting better every year. I’d hate to be a judge. I honestly didn’t think I’d make the top 10 this year. The talent was so diverse, so competitive.” Marx said. “It was fun seeing my friends and family waving placards with my picture on them”

Grant Mayfield, who graduated from St. Thomas Aquinas this spring, said he wasn’t expecting to make the top 10 this year.

“I was a finalist in 2012 and then didn’t even make the semi-finals last year. I guess I didn’t sing very well. This year I thought I sang about as well as I ever have. So I feel better,” he said. “I was standing backstage talking with the others when they started calling off the winners. I didn’t know my name was called until someone said, ‘Get out there; they just called your name.’ Turned out my name was the first one called.

“It was really competitive. I feel good about being a finalist,” he added. “We all agreed we sing better when the audience is responsive.”

The finalists will have 18 rehearsals during the next two months, Azorsky said, and Ruder will help the contestants select the songs best suited to their style and make sure they know what to expect at the finals.

The semi-finalists were chosen through auditions held April 6 and 23 at the Jewish Community Center. The second round of auditions, which had scheduled for April 13, was postponed after Reat Griffin, who was at the Jewish Community Center to audition, and his grandfather, William Lewis Corporon, were shot and killed.

Rob Riggle, who graduated from Shawnee Mission South and earned degrees in public administration, theater and film at the University of Kansas, will be the celebrity emcee at the finals. Riggle, a comedian and actor who has appeared in the films “21 Jump Street,” “The Hangover” and “The Other Guys,” makes frequent appearances in the Kansas City area.

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