The sixth year of Suburban Chicago's Got Talent launched Sunday with a rocking laugh at Schaumburg's Prairie Center for the Arts. Four middle-aged guys from the Ingleside-based rock band Last One Standing snarled out an unexpected headbanging cover of Taylor Swift's pop hit "We are Never Ever Getting Back Together."
"I loved the personality," laughed first-time competition judge Joe Keefe, the artistic director of the Metropolis Performing Arts Centre in Arlington Heights. "I wanted to see one stage dive, too."
See the Top 15Location: Prairie Center for the Arts, 201 Schaumburg Court, Schaumburg, (847) 895-3600 or prairiecenter.org
Show dates: Top 15 show at 7 p.m. Sunday, July 16; Top 10 show at 7 p.m. Sunday, July 30
Free finale: 2:30 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 5, at the Taste of Arlington Heights
Keefe was joined by three other judges offering praise and tips for improvement for each of the top 20 finalists. Also new on the panel was Paige Ehlman of Paige Model & Talent Agency, joining returning judges Ron Onesti, CEO of Onesti Entertainment, and Daily Herald principal theater critic and legal affairs writer Barbara Vitello.
As in previous years, Prairie Center production supervisor Rob Pileckis served as host. Pileckis questioned the artists to find out about their backgrounds and also garnered a few laughs when the returning oddball Oak Lawn music duo Monk 9 gave answers with self-deprecating nonsense.
Like Last One Standing, several competitors sang covers of other artists' songs with their own special twists. Poplar Grove singer Kayla Seeber slipped in her own original rap into Cyndi Lauper's 1980s hit "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun," while Belvidere High School freshman Adem Dalipi also wowed the crowd with his mature blues guitar and singing skills singing Stevie Ray Vaughan's "Pride and Joy."
Several returning Suburban Chicago's Got Talent competitors used their time in the spotlight to perform their own material. Ken Markovic of Darien strummed out a song of heartbreak called "Emily," while Garrett Ryan of West Dundee showed off his guitar skills on his song "Miles Apart."
All these musicians, plus the Naperville hip-hop dance troupe The Dynasty, are vying to win the "STARTER Kit" grand prize valued at $5,000. It includes an opportunity to open for a national headlining act at the Arcada Theatre in St. Charles, career mentoring by Onesti Entertainment, and professional video and still photo shoots of a live performance.
Also in the mix is the social media-driven Fan Favorite prize. The public can vote online for their favorite acts (and see videos from the top 20 show) by visiting dailyherald.com between midnight Tuesday, June 27, and noon Friday, June 30. The Top 20 act with the most votes is guaranteed to advance to the top 15 round, while the contestant with the most cumulative online votes from the competition will win an entertainment package with gift cards from local restaurants, theaters and attractions valued at more than $500.
For 2017, Suburban Chicago's Got Talent is co-sponsored by the Daily Herald, Onesti Entertainment, the Prairie Center for the Arts, the Arlington Heights Chamber of Commerce, Salon Lorrene, Zeigler Automotive Group and Amita Health.