On Sunday, February 10 LA's Next Great Stage Star 2013 came to a thrilling conclusion atSterling's Upstairs at the Federal. Sadly, one contestant, Matthew Bohrer, was stranded at Logan Airport, Boston due to the East coast blizzard of the past several days. Host Michael Sterling contacted Bohrer by cell at the top of the show, and what followed was a bittersweet exchange. Bohrer expressed his happiness to have been part of the competition for five weeks, and his sorrow for not being able to be there for the finale, as he wished his fellow contestants all the best of luck. His points for the preceding weeks were still counted in the final tally.
After an amazing two-hour program in which the 19 contestants gave 150% to their uptempo songs from Broadway shows - many of them rarely heard like Kelsey Hainlen's beautiful "I'm Not Alone" from the new musical Carrie and Laleh Khorsandi's delicious "I Hate Musicals" from Ruthless - fifteen contestants were eliminated and the top five finalists selected. Each of the five then proceeded to perform a second number after which the distinguished panel of judges made the final decision. Without a doubt in my mind it was "I Give My Life for You", the gorgeous and touching soliloquy from Miss Saigon that clinched the award for Charlotte Mary Wen, who performed it exquisitely. Musical director extraordinaire James Lent accompanied at the piano throughout the three hour show.
Those chosen were: fifth runner-up, Kelsey Hainlen, fourth runner-up Katherine Washington, third runner-up Clinton James Sherwood, second runner-up Jonathan A. Arana, and LA's Next Great Stage Star 2013, winner Charlotte Mary Wen.
Interviewing the top five at the after-party, I asked one basic question: How have the last six weeks improved your performance? All answered similarly that the learning experience helped infuse in them more self-confidence, a trust that had been lacking, in either choosing the right material or in just believing in themselves. Well, they all certainly proved their worth by delivering astounding performances, good enough to take them far in this highly competitive profession. They, along with the fifteen others, are all winners! The top two Charlotte Mary Wen and Jonathan A. Arana will have upcoming cabaret/concert gigs at Sterling's Upstairs at the Federal at some point during 2013.
Thanks to Michael Sterling and his great production team, to Jackie Evans for her lovely choreography of the opener "Don't Rain On My Parade" from Funny Girl, to the great panel of professional judges - made up from LA's top theatre directors, agents and casting directors - for giving of their time, and a special nod to Barbara Van Orden for her very generous grant that has made LA's Next Great Stage Star - the only live competition of its kind in LA - such a stupendous success. Also, thanks to the Federal kitchen staff for a scrumptious brunch menu, efficient service and delicious hors d'oeuvres at the after party.
All the contestants are winners. Let's give the remaining 15 another round of applause: Laleh Khorsandi, Jonah Platt, Nick Adorno, Ben Gibson, Rachae Thomas, Katy Tang, Catie Marron, Connor Howe, Lexie Lowelll, Deyana Castellanos, Kim Dalton, Allen Darby, Alxander Jon, Chelsea Rae Bernier and the aforementioned Matthew Bohrer.
photo credit: Jim Spada