Morristown Onstage talent show brings acts together
Morristown Onstage talent show brings acts together
LESLIE RUSE, STAFF WRITER Published 6:11 p.m. ET Jan. 7, 2017 | Updated 7:21 p.m. ET Jan. 7, 2017
MORRISTOWN – Singers, dancers, musicians and one standup comic all vying to win the 10th Morristown Onstage talent show, brought their acts to the Morristown High School auditorium on Saturday, January 7 for Media Day. Fifteen of the 16 finalists for the March 1st showcase introduced themselves to the media and performed.
“We’re super excited about the 10 year show. When we started, we didn’t know what to think. We can’t believe we’re still here,” said Debbie Sontupe, Morris Educational Foundation’s Executive Director.
“It’s been a tremendous experience and we’re hoping to raise a lot more for the Morris Educational Foundation through this amazing talent. Just incredible. It’s so fun. The audience will be blown away. We can’t wait. It’ll be an incredible evening.”
Four arts and entertainment professionals will again do the judging and will award one $1,000 prize to a contestant ages 19 and over and to one age 18 and under act. $500 will be awarded to the “Audience Choice” winner and a $250 Rossoff Rising Star winner will also be chosen by the Morristown Onstage Steering Committee.
This year’s judges will include two Morristown High School alumni currently working in the music industry. Ben Sesar, a Class of ’88 graduate and lead drummer for country music star Brad Paisley will be joined by Class of ’10 alum Aaron Velasquez, a previous winner of Morristown Onstage.
“Thank you for being our wonderful Morristown community. We had over 70 people try out for the show and you guys made it, so congratulations,” Morristown Onstage Chair’s Molly Servais told the acts seated in the auditorium.
“We are going to have a fantastic show and it’s just going to be a great night. So really, just look forward to it and practice. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”
Morristown-resident Tara Bernie, an Emmy-nominated senior producer of “Access Hollywood” will return as master of ceremonies. Bernie asked the finalists if they were excited. Loud cheers and applause answered her question.
“The fact that you guys are in the show this year, it’s as big a deal for us as it is for you. We want to see that talent. That’s why we put you in the show.”
Bernie also told the finalists what the judges would be looking for while they watched their performances: poise, stage presence, interpretation, suitability and their general performance.
“Try to convey, first and foremost, that you’re having a good time. Sell who you are so when you’re on that stage come show night and the judges are sitting in the front row and all your friends and family are watching, they’ll see why you made it and why’re you’re here.”
Auditions were held on Dec. 10, 2016 and were open to Morristown High School alumni and those who live, work, train or attend school in Morristown, Morris Township and Morris Plains. 64 acts tried out for the 16 finalists spots over nine hours. The tryouts brought out the best area talent in music, comedy and dancing.
“I was a finalist 10 years ago. I lost to like a 15-year-old band but that’s okay. They were good. But I recently moved back to town and thought I’d like to try again. I have kids now and I think they’ll like seeing me perform. I remember, just to play in that theater was awesome,” said Singer/songwriter/guitarist Steve Mauriello aka Steevan Mars, who has three children ages 7 to 9 months.“I write my own songs so when you reach someone, it’s great. I’m excited about being a finalist. It’s good to know I still got it. It’s always a thrill no matter what you do.”
Morristown Onstage has raised more than $400,000 for the Morris Educational Foundation in its previous nine years including $90,000 last year. The regularly sold-out show benefits students in the Morris School District.
“This is an amazing opportunity. I had no idea what an opportunity it was,” Ally Are, a previous over 19 Morristown Onstage winner, told the audience. “It just had a spiral effect of opportunity. The night of the show might seem like the end but it’s really just the beginning.”
All the acts took turns introducing themselves and their talent to the audience members which were made up primarily of media and family and friends scattered throughout the auditorium.
“The seventh grade musical was my first. I was a sports guy and a little stage shy and my mom sort of pushed me. She said, just give it a shot. I did and I ended up loving it. I love being on stage. My voice got me a scholarship to college. I got out of it after school ended but it was something I always loved to do,” said Joe Paggi who performed Josh Groban’s “You Raise Me Up.”
“This was an opportunity to get back on stage. When I made the finals, I was very excited. When I first tried out, I was a little nervous. Once I got on stage for the audition, the nerves went and it feels like I’m home again. It feels really comfortable.”
Tickets for the show will go on sale at noon on Feb. 1 through The Mayo Performing Arts Center in Morristown. Visit www.mayoarts.org or call 973-539-8008. For more information about Morristown Onstage, visit www.morristownonstage.com.