As you might guess from the name of the competition, there was a whole lot of belting at Music Theatre Idol Friday night. The top 10 contestants in the contest, staged by Music Theatre of Madison at First United Methodist Church, were a refreshing and delightful mix.
Some, like 64-year-old retired science teacher David Czerepinski, were just in it for love of performing. After singing his heart out in a fine rendition of "If I Loved You" from Carousel, Czerepinski sat back, with his family, to enjoy the final round with good cheer. The contingent of middle-aged performers seemed the most relaxed and content of the bunch; they were mostly in it for kicks anyway.
Compare that with the eager, anxious teenage performers who may really have an eye on Broadway. Some, like the sprightly Ally Marckesano, 15, could be in the spotlight one day. After punching out a sweet and sassy "Not for the Life of Me" from Thoroughly Modern Millie, she wound up in second place.
But perhaps more experienced performers were bound to take the day. Two recent UW graduates, Jeremy Sonkin and Christine Esche, rounded out the top three. Sonkin's easy ride through "One Song Glory" from Rent was enough to shoot him into the final. Even more impressive was his powerhouse performance of "This is the Moment," though it snagged him only third place.
Esche was the winner. Her star power shone as, dressed in sneakers and zip-up sweater, she nailed the crucial ascending line in "I Dreamed a Dream" from Les Miserables. "My parents just love hearing me sing and do this kind of thing, so I thought it would be a fun thing for them," said the champion of her performance, with a grin.
Sure, the judges lacked the big-time personality of the American Idol oligarchy. They actually didn't say much of anything. And yes, the side room at First United Methodist might not be the grandest stage. The event could have used a few more audience members.
But Music Theatre Idol was a success. Participants got practice, encouragement and prizes. The musical theater community got a chance to geek out. And money was raised for both Music Theatre of Madison and the church's food pantry.
Music Theatre of Madison's next production will be a fully staged version of Andrew Lippa's The Wild Party. It plays June 3-5 at the Bartell Theatre.