Make room, Haley Reinhart. The suburbs will soon be home to another talented star. And here's the best part: It could very well be you.
The new Suburban Chicago's Got Talent competition begins this week. So warm up your vocal chords. Tune the guitar. Put on your dancing shoes. Perfect that magic trick. Then, see if you've got what it takes to make it all the way.
Meet the judgesCharlie Beck -- Executive director of the Metropolis Performing Arts Centre
Beck assumed the role of executive director at Metropolis in November 2011 after a decade of working in and around Chicago as an actor. He appeared in several productions at Metropolis in the mid-2000s, most notably in the seasonal favorite "A Christmas Carol." Beck is a resident of Palatine and a member of the Governing Board of St. Peter Lutheran Church in Arlington Heights. He brings a wealth of business experience, previously working more than 20 years as a marketing and senior executive in the pharmaceutical industry.
Micky York -- Resident musical director of the Metropolis Performing Arts Centre
York is always happy to be behind the piano at Metropolis, where his past productions include "A Christmas Carol," "The Andrews Brothers," "Nunsense," "Baby" and more in addition to numerous cabarets. Other musical directing credits include "Happy End" (After Dark Award -- Outstanding Musical Direction) and "Jacques Brel…" for Brown Couch and "Sarita" for Halcyon Theatre in Chicago, as well as regional productions in Kansas City, Mo., Atlanta and Des Moines, Iowa. York also performs regularly with the Wine Trio and "Close to You: The Music of the Carpenters."
Michelle Shaver -- Education director of the Metropolis Performing Arts Centre
Shaver received her BA in Theatre from Washington and Jefferson College where she performed in numerous plays including "The Crucible," "Boy Gets Girl" and "Twelfth Night." She was also a member of the Center Stage Players Theatre for Children production of "The Law of the Yukon." Shaver has been teaching early childhood, elementary and special needs storytelling and performance classes since 2006. In 2010, she became a registered Music Together instructor, adapted and directed "Giraffes Can't Dance" for the premier season of Lil' Light Up Camp and became the early childhood department head. In 2011, Michelle was named Performing Arts Education Director of the Metropolis School of Performing Arts.
Suburban Chicago's Got Talent -- sponsored by the Daily Herald, the Metropolis Performing Arts Centre and the Arlington Heights Chamber of Commerce -- is a summer-long search that culminates with a live performance as well as an expenses-paid chance to audition for NBC's "America's Got Talent."
The competition begins with amateur performers signing up for one of up to 300 general audition spots for the first elimination round being held from Thursday through Saturday, June 7-9, at the Metropolis Performing Arts Centre. From there, a panel of three judges will pick 20 finalists to perform at another elimination round slated for Sunday, July 8.
As with many reality TV competitions, the general public will be able to vote for their favorites from the top 20 acts by visiting the Daily Herald's website.
Ten acts will then be chosen for another audition round set for Sunday, July 22. Then the final five appear together on Sunday, Aug. 5, at the Metropolis and again at the outdoor Taste of Arlington Heights event scheduled for Saturday, Aug. 11.
That's when the winner of Suburban Chicago's Got Talent will be announced for the top prize of airfare and accommodations to audition for "America's Got Talent." Planners of the competition are formulating an "audience favorite" prize as well.
"The idea of Suburban Chicago's Got Talent was something that started last year when we were talking about the chamber's Taste of Arlington Heights event," said Jon S. Ridler, executive director of the Arlington Heights Chamber of Commerce. "We wanted something to lead up to it to showcase the event, get people excited and to drive attendance to the event."
This year's event will be held a week earlier than in the past rather than compete with the Arlington Million at Arlington Park.
Teaming up with the Daily Herald and the Metropolis was a natural idea, since both entities work closely with the Chamber of Commerce.
Charlie Beck, who became the Metropolis Performing Arts Centre's new executive director this past November, was particularly keen to find ways for the theater to branch out and collaborate with other organizations in the community.
"We certainly know there's an awful lot of talent around here, and we see it every year when we run our general auditions for our theater productions and we draw 300 to 600 people," Beck said. "We have a file of thousands of actors and performers who have come in through the years, so we're very familiar with the quality of talent that surrounds us. We're excited here because we'll be opening it up beyond just actors and singers -- any kind of act, really."
Well, almost any kind of act. There's no profanity, no animal acts, no pyrotechnics. In other words, the act must be safe -- and family-friendly.
As one of the judges for Suburban Chicago's Got Talent, Beck hopes to see supportive audience members come to the Metropolis to cheer on their favorite acts through the later rounds.
"I'm assuming we'll be getting some family and friends coming of course, but we would love to see a general audience from the area come on in for what I think will be a great show with a diverse offering of talent," Beck said. "Evaluating talent and putting on shows is something we do very well here and of course putting on shows is one of our stock-in-trades."
As for the involvement of the Daily Herald, the newspaper has been showcasing videos of talented local performers via its online feature Suburbia's Got Talent since October 2011. Joining with the Arlington Heights Chamber of Commerce and Metropolis for the competition is another way for the newspaper to engage with the community, according to Eileen Brown, assistant vice president/director of innovation and audience development for the Daily Herald.
"In the last year, the Daily Herald has been focusing more on events as a way to connect with our readers," said Brown, citing past Daily Herald competitions like the Cook of the Week Challenge, the Fittest Loser and the Backyard Makeover Contest, as well as events with the Herald's Subscriber Total Access members. "These events allow us to have real face-to-face time with our readers and help us build community."
Shawn Michael Hutchins, owner of Hutch Music Studio in Lake Zurich, was recently featured on the Daily Herald's online Suburbia's Got Talent feature singing his song "Sometimes." Though Hutchins hasn't decided whether he will audition for Suburban Chicago's Got Talent, he appreciates the effort to shine a spotlight on local talent.
"I think it probably could be a very good way for people in our area to get their talents out there and seen by a larger audience," Hutchins said.