Saturday evening was bittersweet for Sanu John, half of the beat-boxing duo that wowed the fans and the judges who awarded iLLest Vocals the top prize in the Suburban Chicago's Got Talent competition.
"I'm just so happy. I really wish Shawn were here," said John, of Skokie, after the judges presented him with the trophy and a trip to audition for NBC's "America's Got Talent" 2013 season.
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John, 25, took the stage by himself during a Suburban Chicago's Got Talent showcase that featured the five finalists from the summer talent competition. His other half, 25-year-old Shawn Kurian of Wheeling, had to leave the country earlier in the week to tend to a family emergency. The duo did perform together Aug. 5 when iLLest Vocals and the four other top acts performed for the judges the final time.
On Saturday John brought energy enough for two to Harmony Park in downtown Arlington Heights. He performed his beat-box effects and smooth dance moves to a recorded track of Kurian's vocals that had young and old in the crowd swaying their arms to a "This Is How We Do It" mashup.
"He's not here, but he's here," John said of Kurian. "I can't wait to email him and tell him the news."
The duo not only won the judges' hearts but also came out on top in the online voting and secured a trip from FunJet Vacations for being the Fan Favorite.
"We've believed in you from that very first audition day," said judge Michelle Shaver, education director for Metropolis Performing Arts Centre, one of the contest's sponsors.
"You are very cute boys, you have a lot going on," said Shaver, who also marveled at the harmony and beat that could come from one mouth. "You put on a great show. ... You were able to bring it to everyone in the audience."
John said he's eager for Kurian to return so they can hone their act for the national audition; the date and city have not been set.
"Once we get the info (about the audition) we'll get creative; we have so many mashups in our minds," he said.
Charlie Beck, executive director for Metropolis, said the top five finalists along with those in the top 40 will be invited to another showcase Sept. 4 and 5 where talent agents will be in the audience.
"We were so pleased to find out that, indeed, suburban Chicago does have talent," Beck said. "Any of these acts are worthy of professional careers."
Indeed, singer/songwriter Woody James (James Lowell Woodraska of Millington) seemed to garner the biggest round of applause Saturday after he nailed a version of Johnny Cash's "Folsom Prison Blues."
The other finalists were country duo Faith and Whisky (Camille Eiseman and Terry Tank of Crystal Lake), yo-yo artist Shane Lubecker of Algonquin and jazz pianist Robert Osiol of Mount Prospect.
The performers represented the cream of the crop of nearly 200 acts that auditioned from the summer talent competition co-sponsored by Metropolis Performing Arts Centre, the Arlington Heights Chamber of Commerce, Wintrust Community Banks, Schaumburg-based law firm Gardi & Haught LTD, College Textbooks and the Daily Herald.