Do you have what it takes to be suburban Chicago's next talent competition star? Is there a talent you've nurtured that might wow a local or national audience? Are you ready to take your act -- whatever it might be -- to the next level?
Go ahead, put your star power to the test: The second Suburban Chicago's Got Talent competition is under way.
Registration opens today for the summer-long talent competition presented by the Daily Herald, produced by the Metropolis Performing Arts Centre and sponsored by the Arlington Heights Chamber of Commerce.
Last year's contest drew a wide range of talent -- lots of singers as well as dancers, comics, a yo-yo artist and a couple teens who made electronic music with old video game systems. All acts are welcome, as long as they're safe, animal-free and family-friendly.
The fun -- and hard work -- starts now. And it wraps up in August with a winner who gets an expenses-paid trip to audition for the NBC hit TV show "America's Got Talent."
Here's how the contest works: Groups or individuals interested in trying out should read the rules and register to audition at metropolisarts.com/scgtauditions. General auditions are 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, June 6 to 8, at the Metropolis Performing Arts Centre, 111 W. Campbell St., Arlington Heights.
Out of a possible 300 general audition spots, contestants will be whittled down to a top 30. Fifteen will perform at a 7 p.m. show on Sunday, June 23, and another 15 on Sunday, July 7.
From that group, judges -- Charlie Beck and Micky York of Metropolis and Daily Herald staff writer Barbara Vitello -- will pick half to move on.
Those 15 perform again at 7 p.m. Sunday, July 21, for the chance to continue. Then, the top 10 perform at 7 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 4.
In both of those two rounds, there will be an important online voting component. Videos will be posted at dailyherald.com, and fans can vote for their favorites among the top 15 and top 10. The Fan Favorite in the first round of voting is guaranteed a spot in the top 10, and the overall Fan Favorite will get a prize to be announced later.
Throughout, the audiences at the finalists' shows -- all at Metropolis -- will get a chance to give their opinions as well.
"We've also added an element of voting by the audience that is present at each of the performances," said Metropolis executive director and Suburban Chicago's Got Talent judge Charlie Beck, explaining a new angle for the competition this year.
The final 10 will perform at the Taste of Arlington Heights on Saturday, Aug. 10, when the winner and Fan Favorite will be announced.
"What we liked the most from last year was watching the progression of artists from week to week," said contest judge and Metropolis music director Micky York. "The artists who were most successful were the ones who not just took our advice, but strove to grow to improve their acts for the audience."
Last year nearly 200 people competed at the general auditions for Suburban Chicago's Got Talent, and 20 acts culled from the finalist list were even offered a chance to audition for an "America's Got Talent" screening panel (without waiting in the general audition lines) when the producers for the upcoming season added Chicago to its changing list of cities to seek out talent.
Shawn Kurian of Wheeling was one half of the beatboxing duo iLLest Vocals (along with Skokie resident Sanu John), which won both the top prize and Fan Favorite award for the 2012 edition of Suburban Chicago's Got Talent.
"The overall competition experience was fun and we made a lot of great relationships," Kurian said. "Not to mention after the competition, being able to get vocal lessons (at the Metropolis with Micky York) definitely improved our sound, and we were really grateful for that."
Like iLLest Vocals, other Suburban Chicago's Got Talent finalists were invited back to perform at the Metropolis as part of family revue shows. And in one case, a finalist had an exclusive Mardi Gras concert performance this year.
Top 20 finalist John Koziol (aka Jonny K) has a day job as a dental implant manufacturer for Choice Dental in Arlington Heights. But Koziol's participation in Suburban Chicago's Got Talent gave him the courage to write some new songs (like "That's Why We Dance" and "Tearing My Heart Away," which are available to purchase on iTunes). Though Koziol competed as a solo artist for Suburban Chicago's Got Talent, he auditioned with his band, Johnny K & Tempest Rising, for "America's Got Talent."
"If it wasn't for Charlie (Beck) and those guys when I went there to audition (for Suburban Chicago's Got Talent), this wouldn't have happened and I wouldn't have gone further with it," Koziol said. "Charlie and the whole company there really encouraged me."
Local audiences who claimed free tickets to see the celebrity judge tapings of "America's Got Talent" at the Rosemont Theatre this week will see if any of the Suburban Chicago's Got Talent finalists made it through. But in the meantime, talented suburbanites can show off their skills locally for Suburban Chicago's Got Talent.