Sharon A. Wlezien of St. Charles recently celebrated her "milestone" 50th birthday. And that is partially what propelled her to audition for the sixth year of Suburban Chicago's Got Talent.
"I want to go for every dream that I ever had, and singing has been one of those dreams," said Wlezien, who performed an a cappella version of Melissa Etheridge's "Come to My Window" on Thursday at the Prairie Center for the Arts in Schaumburg.
Suburban Chicago's Got TalentLocation: Prairie Center for the Arts, 201 Schaumburg Court, Schaumburg, (847) 895-3600 or prairiecenter.org
Show dates: Top 20 show 6 p.m. Sunday, June 25; Top 15 show 6 p.m. Sunday, July 16; Top 10 show Sunday, July 30
Free finale: 2:30 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 5, at Taste of Arlington Heights
"This was my first audition of anything -- not even a high school play," Wlezien said. "So I was nervous, but I'm glad that I did it."
Wlezien is one of more than 50 hopefuls who have officially registered for initial auditions to Suburban Chicago's Got Talent. The summer competition 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.
Another singer trying her luck was Claire Collins of Winfield, a 20-year-old student at College of DuPage. Collins found out about the competition from a Facebook friend, so she signed up because she felt it could be a good way for her to perform and showcase some of her original material.
"I sang my song 'I Have To,'" Collins said. "It's mostly about how I fell in love with someone and they didn't love me back, and I have to forget about it."
Daily Herald theater critic Barbara Vitello is a returning judge on the initial auditions panel, and she is joined by newcomer Michael Pirovano. He's a Schaumburg-based writer and director whose play, "Reading Emily West," will premiere later this year at Chicago's Pendulum Theater.
"I'm honored to be here and I can't wait to see what the competition holds," said Pirovano, eager about the registered acts that include many singers, competitive dancers, rock bands and a standup comedian.
"I am really looking for artists to add to and elevate something," Pirovano said. "If they sing an Adele piece, I don't want to hear Adele -- I want to hear them doing Adele, but better than her."
As in past years of Suburban Chicago's Got Talent, the grand prize is a "STARter Kit" 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.
Suburban Chicago's Got Talent also awards a Fan Favorite prize. After the first three public performances of the top 20, top 15 and top 10 finalists, videos of all the competitors are posted online at dailyherald.com for the general public to cast votes. The act with the most votes is guaranteed to advance in the competition, while the contestant with the most cumulative online votes wins an entertainment package with gift cards from local restaurants, theaters and attractions valued at more than $500.
"This is a great chance for people around this area to come and show their talents." Wlezien said. "So we'll see what happens."