The performances by the top 15 contestants in this year's Suburban Chicago's Got Talent competition impressed guest judge Ron Onesti so much that he wondered aloud what was in the local drinking water.
"I need to get out here to Schaumburg more often," said Onesti, president and CEO of Onesti Entertainment, which runs the Arcada Theatre in St. Charles.
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The performances took place Sunday at Schaumburg's Prairie Center for the Performing Arts. Onesti and the other judges -- Beth Waller, cultural arts supervisor for the Schaumburg Park District; Barbara Vitello, staff writer for the Daily Herald; and John Flamini, chairman of the village of Schaumburg's cultural commission -- now have the tough job of narrowing the field down for the top 10 round, which will take place on Aug. 3 at the Prairie Center.
Sunday's round included vocal performances in a variety of styles -- rock, country, even opera. There was also some dancing and musical virtuosity on display.
Forest Park singer Hope Rose got things started with a rendition of "Something More" by superstar country group Sugarland. Vitello praised her singing but encouraged Rose to move more naturally and forcefully on stage. Onesti said Rose appeared much more confident and relaxed at the end of the song than she did at the outset.
"You have to learn how to come out swinging," he said.
Classical singer Carly Meyer, a 12-year-old from Northbrook, stunned the judges (and the crowd) with her performance of "Poor Wandering One" from Gilbert & Sullivan's "The Pirates of Penzance."
"With the talent you have, it's going nowhere but up," Flamini said. He encouraged Meyer to work on her stage presence, a suggestion echoed by the other judges.
Rachel McPheeters, an English teacher from DeKalb, performed an upbeat version of Imelda May's "Road Runner" while playing the tambourine.
Waller loved her energy and stage presence, but said McPheeters' vocals sometimes felt forced. Vitello praised her for the way she connected with the crowd during breaks in the vocals.
Suburban Chicago's Got Talent is co-sponsored by the Daily Herald, the Arlington Heights Chamber of Commerce and the Prairie Center for the Performing Arts. The contestants are competing for a grand prize known as a "STARter Kit." The package includes a concert performance as an opening act for a major headliner at the Arcada Theatre, a professional concert-style photo shoot, a promotional video drawn from live competition footage and professional talent mentoring.
The public will have a vote in who gets to advance to each new round of competition. Starting Wednesday morning, viewers can visit dailyherald.com to watch videos of each of the Top 15 performances and vote on their Fan Favorite. The winner of the online Fan Favorite after each live performance gets an automatic spot in the next round of competition.
The top vote-getter from three rounds of online voting will also win the ultimate Fan Favorite prize of a Funjet Vacation for two. The winners of the competition will be announced at the Taste of Arlington Heights on Saturday, Aug. 9.