Vocalist Gabriela Francesca of Palatine was named the winner of the 2013 edition of Suburban Chicago's Got Talent, while vocalist Andrew Johnston of Bourbonnais was voted the online "Fan Favorite" on Saturday at the Taste of Arlington Heights.
Francesca, an 18-year-old student studying at Berklee College of Music in Boston, wins an expenses-paid trip to audition for producers of NBC-TV's "America's Got Talent."
"I am so grateful," Francesca said after the announcement. "I'm really proud that I'll get to represent suburban Chicago at auditions for 'America's Got Talent.'"
Francesca was among nearly 100 contestants who went through Suburban Chicago's Got Talent general auditions in June. The finalists then were narrowed down through Sunday performances at the Metropolis Performing Arts Centre in Arlington Heights -- from a top 30 on June 23 and July 7, to a top 16 (upped from 15 due to a scoring tie) on July 21, to the final 10 on Aug. 4.
Francesca consistently won over the judges and audiences, who voted at the live rounds of competition in the summer-long competition presented by the Daily Herald, produced by the Metropolis Performing Arts Centre and sponsored by the Arlington Heights Chamber of Commerce.
Each of the top 10 finalists performed again Saturday at the Taste of Arlington Heights, many choosing new numbers and songs for the outdoor crowd. The scoring was based on cumulative numerical ranking among the judges at each live performance round and by those audiences in attendance -- who had a 20 percent say in the voting. But competitors' final performances at the Taste of Arlington Heights factored into the ultimate decision.
"Some of the contestants really raised their game, and what they did was even better than what they've done before," said Metropolis Executive Director Charlie Beck, who was part of a judging panel that included College of DuPage director of theater Connie Canaday Howard, Metropolis music director Micky York and Daily Herald writer Barbara Vitello, who reviews theater. Metropolis Education Director Michelle Shaver served as host.
"I didn't know that you had those extra two octaves in you," said York, giving feedback after Francesca's 1980s flashback cover performance singing the late Whitney Houston's "I Wanna Dance with Somebody." "We're always looking for artists who have star quality, and you have that."
As the competition's online Fan Favorite, 21-year-old Andrew Johnston wins a Funjet Vacation for two. Johnston received the most online votes from about 66,000 cast at the Daily Herald website, dailyherald.com, following the Top 16 and Top 10 rounds of the competition.
"It was a shock when they called my name," said Johnston, who performed a vocally pyrotechnic version of the R&B standard "Try a Little Tenderness."
Vitello said she was pleased that Johnston won the fan favorite, particularly since he mentioned earlier in the competition that it was his singing at a high school assembly that helped put a stop to a lot of bullying he had to endure when he was younger.
Also performing at the Taste of Arlington Heights were Shawn Kurian and Sanu John of the beatboxing duo iLLest Vocals, the dual grand prize winners and Fan Favorite of the 2012 edition of Suburban Chicago's Got Talent. Kurian and John performed an extended mashup of songs while the judges deliberated, and they also got to announce the 2013 winner.
The other top 10 finalists of Suburban Chicago's Got Talent were: vocalist Kimberly Church of Carpentersville, vocalist and guitarist Ryan Cooper of Schaumburg, pianist and vocalist Riley Mangan of Arlington Heights, the Arlington Heights-based family band No Immunity (featuring siblings Matt Kania, Meggie Kania, Molly Mcdermott and Andy Meyers), vocalist San Sandberg of Geneva, country duo and husband-and-wife team Sean and Karen (Slavin) of Woodstock, comedian Tiffany Streng of Arlington Heights and the band Viper Fever featuring brothers Tim and Dan Shemroske of Bartlett with Mark Glatt of Riverwoods.
Talent: 'I was a little shocked when they called my name'