A few of the remaining finalists of Suburban Chicago's Got Talent courted disaster or challenged expectations during the top 15 performance Sunday at Schaumburg's Prairie Center for the Arts.
Acknowledging the influence of singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran, Garrett Ryan of West Dundee kept the audience on edge as he made music with just his vocals and a looping pedal. Ryan layered his own harmonies and beatbox percussion in sequences to create an expansive backing track to sing the 19th century standard "Wayfairing Stranger."
Location: Prairie Center for the Arts, 201 Schaumburg Court, Schaumburg, (847) 895-3600 or prairiecenter.org
Showtimes: 7 p.m. Sunday, July 30
Free finale: 2:30 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 5, at the Taste of Arlington Heights
"So much could have gone wrong," said host Rob Pileckis, impressed that Ryan pulled it off.
Other contestants also put their own stamp on well-known songs. Lucky of Arlington Heights transformed Drake's "Hotline Bling" into a tender ballad. Drummer Adrian Guzik of Lisle added his high-energy percussion to the unlikely pairing of Justin Bieber songs.
Also in the mix were a few original songs, like "Philophobia" by Kayla Seeber of Poplar Grove, "That's All" by the team of Tom & Olivia from Aurora, and "Heaven Knows Me," a religiously inspired number by the Annie Young Gospel Blues Band.
In contrast, Marina Alyse of Lake in the Hills and Cassandra Henwood of Elgin risked comparisons to more famous singers. Alyse sang the "Funny Girl" Broadway standard "Don't Rain on My Parade" (originated by Barbra Streisand), while Henwood tackled Lady Gaga's "A Million Reasons."
"You are one of the reasons why this contest is so hard for us," said judge Ron Onesti when giving feedback to Henwood. "You waited for the song to get inside you and then you unleashed it."
Joining returning judges Onesti, Barbara Vitello and Paige Ehlman was first-time judge Michael Weber. He drew from his professional stage experience as Porchlight Music Theatre's executive director to offer performance critiques on pitch issues and lyric articulation. The judges also doled out plenty of compliments.
The pool of 15 contestants will soon be reduced to 10, but the general public can have their say on saving this week's "Fan Favorite."
Videos of the acts will be posted online at dailyherald.com to see and viewers can cast votes from midnight Tuesday, July 18, through noon Friday, July 21. The act with the most online votes is guaranteed to advance, while the contestant with the most cumulative votes will win an entertainment package with gift cards from local restaurants, theaters and attractions valued at more than $500.
But the ultimate prize is the "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.
Both winners will be announced Aug. 5 at the Taste of Arlington Heights.
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.