It's one thing to perform a standup comedy routine before a large, laughing crowd. It's another to toss out quips about marriage and motherhood before three judges in an otherwise empty hall.
But Sally Edwards of Wauconda overcame her trepidation as she competed Thursday in Suburban Chicago's Got Talent at the Metropolis Performing Arts Centre in Arlington Heights.
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Suburban Chicago's Got TalentWhen: Initial auditions, which are not open to the public, continue from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. today and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday. Last-minute registrants can show up and wait for an opening to perform.
Where: Metropolis Performing Arts Centre, 111 W. Campbell St., Arlington Heights
Registration information: Visit metropolisarts.com or call (847) 577-2121
Edwards said the idea of a challenge made her sign up for the contest, which continues with auditions today and Saturday.
"I don't know if I would even have done this, but I saw a comedian on 'America's Got Talent' and I thought, 'You know, we're pretty rare up there,'" said Edwards about the novelty of a comedian in the lineup.
Edwards was one of a variety of contestants out in force Thursday for the summer-long Suburban Chicago's Got Talent competition. There were show choirs, instrumentalists, lots of singers and a punk band called Waiting on Winter.
John Peterson, a 55-year-old retiree from Schaumburg, thought the contest would be a perfect opportunity to do a sung Elvis Presley impersonation.
"Oh, I gotta do this," said Peterson, remembering his reaction at reading about the competition in the Daily Herald, which is a co-sponsor of Suburban Chicago's Got Talent along with the Metropolis and the Arlington Heights Chamber of Commerce.
Eschewing the stereotypical white-and-gold Elvis jumpsuit favored by most impersonators, Peterson opted for a more dignified black and red jacket with a scarf that Elvis wore for news conferences back in 1968 to pair with his black wig and sunglasses to sing the Presley tune "Such a Night" a cappella.
"My wife keeps teasing me," Peterson said, "because right now I'm 14 years older than Elvis was when he passed away."
The judges for Suburban Chicago's Got Talent were pleasantly surprised at the level of performance they saw.
"If we had the buzzers, there's no one that I would have buzzed in the first 30 seconds," said judge and Metropolis Music Director Micky York.
"Everybody has got something to offer, which has been exciting," said judge and Metropolis Education Director Michelle Shaver.
The Suburban Chicago's Got Talent judges are enjoying their chance to offer helpful feedback and comments to the competitors. For instance, the judging panel was full of effusive praise for 8-year-old singer Lucy Bullock of Buffalo Grove, who wore a poofy yellow skirt and a sparkly T-shirt spelling out "Love" to illustrate her enthusiastically sung a cappella number "Build Me Up Buttercup."
"When they put thought into their outfit, it usually means they've really put thought into their entire performance," Shaver said.
"They had really good comments and critiques that I could use to improve my singing," said 14-year-old Chloe Nabors of Arlington Heights after her a cappella audition singing Adele's "Rolling in the Deep."
"I'm less concerned about the competition aspect than I am with the personal growth, if that's a cheesy way of saying artistic development," said Al Leinonen of Arlington Heights, who performed a slowed-down jazzy guitar take on Don Ho's "Tiny Bubbles" on what he said was his 53rd birthday. "I just wanted to try something different. And also to have a chance to say I've performed on the Metropolis stage, which I have never done before."
About 130 contestants were signed up in advance for the auditions. Last-minute registrants also can show up and wait for an opening to perform.
From these three days of preliminary Suburban Chicago's Got Talent auditions, a top-20 list will be chosen to advance to a Metropolis performance open to the public on Sunday, July 8. Local crowds will also be able to cheer on their favorites when the top 10 contestants perform on Sunday, July 22, and then the top five finalists on Sunday, Aug. 5 and on Saturday, Aug. 11 at the Taste of Arlington Heights. That's when the ultimate winner of a paid trip to audition for NBC's "America's Got Talent" will be announced. Fans can also vote for a fan favorite from the top 20 to win a Funjet vacation prize for two.