Top 20 take the stage for Suburban Chicago's Got Talent
"A wall of sound" was how judge Lisa Soukup described The Pack Drumline, the blaring and precisely choreographed percussion ensemble from the Bolingbrook area that closed the first act of Suburban Chicago's Got Talent's Top 20 show on Sunday.
The band didn't give a song title for its pounding number that pushed a few of its gyrating performers off the stage and into the audience of Schaumburg's Prairie Center for the Arts. Yet the performance was remarkable for a show that teemed with original compositions penned by many of the show's singer-songwriters, which was also mixed with strongly performed covers of well-known songs.
Rob Pileckis, back to host the show for his third year, was impressed by the amount of new music. Pileckis introduced each act and bantered with each artist before handing off the comments to a three-judge panel.
Soukup, a new judge who is the dean of students at Prospect High School, was joined by returning Suburban Chicago's Got Talent judges Barbara Vitello, the Daily Herald's theater critic and legal affairs reporter, and Ron Onesti, the CEO and president of St. Charles-based Onesti Entertainment.
The three judges passed around a microphone to share encouragement, constructive criticism and performance tips for each contestant. They'll ultimately decide which acts will advance to the Top 15 and Top 10 rounds of competition respectively on Sundays, July 17 and 31.
Offering up more original music was the young Naperville and Glen Ellyn-based band Skyline Semblance, which kicked off the show its own song "Regret." Arlington Heights singer-songwriter Joelle followed, playing the piano for her own original song "Free."
Singer-songwriter Ken Markovic of Darien revealed that music was one of his "better addictions." He also shared that his plaintive song, "Time Stands Still," was one of a batch of about 40 he had written in the past year after having a health scare three years ago.
Villa Park native Meghan Foley, the Fan Favorite winner of Suburban Chicago's Got Talent in 2015, returned with family reinforcements for her new band called Fenced In. Foley was joined by her sister, Caitlin, and cousin, Dominic Giase of Lombard.
Eight of the 2016 Top 20 finalists are returning competitors from past years, and the lineup was drawn from an initial pool of more than 50 acts that auditioned earlier this month for the fifth year of the summer talent competition.
For instance, Richmond-based performer Rhea bravely performed her own guitar arrangement of the Blue Oyster Cult song "Don't Fear the Reaper," while DeKalb-based English teacher Rachel McPheeters was back after a one-year absence to sing a boisterous cover of Duffy's "Mercy."
As for newcomers, Brianne Cannataro of Schaumburg wowed audiences by performing a tap dance routine to "The Sunny Side of the Street," while the eccentrically costumed band Monk 9 performed a jazzed-up version of the Bruno Mars hit "Uptown Funk."
The finalists of Suburban Chicago's Got Talent are all vying for the top prize, which is called a "STARter Kit." Valued at $5,000, it includes the chance to open for a national headline act at the Arcada Theatre in St. Charles, career mentoring by Onesti Entertainment and professional video and still photo shoots of a live performance and production.
There's also a Fan Favorite prize in the competition, which is chosen by the general public. Starting Tuesday, visitors to dailyherald.com can view videos and vote on their favorite of the top 20 contestants. The act with the most votes is guaranteed a spot in the next round of competition, even if the judges had them slated for elimination. The contestant with the most cumulative online votes throughout the competition wins a to-be-determined Fan Favorite prize.
Winners for both top prizes will be announced at the Taste of Arlington Heights on Saturday, Aug. 6.
The co-sponsors for Suburban Chicago's Got Talent in 2016 are the Daily Herald, Onesti Entertainment, the Prairie Center for the Arts in Schaumburg, the Arlington Heights, Chamber of Commerce, Amita Health, Valli Produce and Salon Lorrene.
Starting Tuesday, visit <a href="http://dailyherald.com/entertainment/talent">dailyherald.com</a> to view videos and vote on your favorite of the top 20 contestants. Winners will be announced at the Taste of Arlington Heights on Saturday, Aug. 6.