Some familiar faces and fresh ones too round out the new season of Chautauqua's Got Talent.
Week one of Jamestown's talent competition began Monday evening with 18 individuals taking the stage at the Spire Theater. With a new host, new competitors and slightly better production value, this year's finale will be one area residents don't want to miss.
According to Angelo Giuffre, event organizer, not only did new show host John Erickson do an impressive job, but he was also thoroughly impressed with the level of talent the contestants brought to the first night.
"The talent is 10 times better than I anticipated," Giuffre said. "These guys didn't show me what they could really do during the auditions, and I still thought it was going to be a good year then. But now that I've seen them perform in front of an audience - I think it's going to be an awesome year."
The show opened with an introduction by Erickson, which was followed by a performance by Carol Westerdahl, winner of the Black Friday vocal competition held at Good Time Saloon. Westerdahl took on Martina McBride's "A Broken Wing," which guest judge Corey Osbourne, a finalist from last year's competition, said was a great way to start off the new season.
Taylor Decker, who passed the auditions, was supposed to take the stage after Westerdahl, however she didn't show up for her time slot, and was thus eliminated from the competition. Mary Till then took the stage, clad in white undergarments, to try "I Dreamed A Dream" from "Les Miserables." To the disappointment of the judges, Till's mic didn't work, and she was also eliminated.
Leisha Kolstee performing “Red Is Blue” by Ben Folds.
P-J photo by Dusten Rader
Dylan Carlson then presented a rendition of "Let Her Go" by Passenger that was quite potent. A little cheerleading then earned Katlyn Livermore a compliment about guts from judge Steve Davis. Adam Gould's impressive Sufjan Stevens cover of "Casimir Pulaski Day" really impressed judge Jamie Lee. And, Chris Waddy's confidence during his routine for Usher's "DJ Got Us Fallin' In Love" impressed Davis.
Returner Leisha Kolstee then grabbed judge Ylsa Giuffre's attention with a fabulous rendition of "Red Is Blue" by Ben Folds. Newcomer Brooklyn Bucklin's rendition of "Stay" by Rihanna earned her a spot in next week's competition.
Austin Anderson, another returner, impressed the entire theater with "Fire And Rain" by James Taylor, which Davis called rockstar material. Erin Page's cover of Adele's "Rolling In The Deep" offered some big notes. Newcomer Jillian VanHouten belted out an unwavering "Alice" by Avril Lavigne. She was followed by some new and improved classical dancing moves by returner Anna Paterniti.
Returner Maia Davis then showed her growth with her cover of "Stay" by Rihanna. Alexander Sanders, another newcomer, showed promise with a ton of infectious energy during a performance of his original tune entitled "Camp Song." Lindsey Hinger, another returner, showed her skill with hoops, and left the audience in anticipation for some fire dancing.
Taylor Latour, returner, captured the audience with an intoxicating smile and heartfelt rendition of Etta James' "At Last." Newcomer Mike Doty managed to continue to next week after his cover of country tune "Livin' Our Love Song" by Jason Michael Carroll. Rishi Gupta topped off the evenings performance with a piano and vocal rendition of John McCulloch's "Industry."
Erickson, who made his debut as show host during night one, is excited to see where this season heads.
"Chautauqua has always been a hot spot for talent," said Erickson. "Whenever you're a host, you're front and center with all these unbelievably talented performers. So, to be there next to them, assist them and be part of such a huge talent search is exciting to be a part of."
"I knew he would be great," Giuffre added. "We miss Matt because he was a part of this contest from its inception and we loved having him around. But, I knew that John would put his own spin on it and be fantastic in his own right."
The contestants of Chautauqua's Got Talent compete for at least $500 cash, a promotional website and dinner once a month for a year at Wing City Grille. The winners are determined not by the panel of judges, but rather by audience vote.
Chautauqua's Got Talent is hosted by Big Time Productions and The Post-Journal, in conjunction with 59lucylane.com and Wing City Grille. The competition will be held at The Spire Theater, 317 E. Third St., in Jamestown on Mondays through March 10 at 7 p.m. Presale tickets will be available at The Labyrinth Press Company for $6, and will be $8 at the door.
For more information, call 450-7357, visit spiretheater.org or search for "Chautauqua's Got Talent" on Facebook.