January 19, 2009
A smorgasbord of FutureStars Finalists: Robby Eisentrout, Bekah Lauer/Molly Epstein/Maya Bassett-Kennedy, Chavonna Bigham, Russel Norris, Maia Gleason, Mara Abramson, Robert Axelrod, Sonya Major.
Dancer Julius Theophilus and singer/guitarist Amelia Franceschi shared this year’s first-place honors. The audience was wild for Julius’s hip-hop dance to Common’s Universal Mind Control. Amelia captivated us all with her soulful performance of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah.
The “Rising Stars” (future FutureStars) perform Pink’s So What.
Top-5 finisher Tim VanRiper had the audience on their knees with Eric Clapton’s Layla. He even provided his own acoustic guitar AND piano accompaniment. Midway through, Wonwoo Lee (Pioneer, 2007) jumped up on stage to perform the electric guitar solo.
Top-5 finishers Ashley Park and Max Rasmussen. Ashley delivered yet another top-notch performance with her rendition of Breathe from the Broadway musical In the Heights. Max exhibited the grace of a consummate professional with his moving rendition of Justin Nozuka’s Save Him — despite a faulty mic that kept cutting out!
Comedy Troupe members (Emily Steward, Jenny Herzog, Hannah Pearlman, and Kyler Wilkins) mock the talent-show genre. You want to defame? Well, defame hurts. And here’s where you start paying — in sweat!
I’m so thrilled that FutureStars is continuing its tradition of showcasing top-shelf, local bands — robust talents that would otherwise likely slip under my (and, I presume, many others’) radar. Schreiber Auditorium rocked out to The Hard Lessons
, “Detroit’s next big rock ’n’ roll thing” (Metro Times). The band is fronted by Augie Visocchi (guitar/vocals) and Korin Louise Visocchi (keyboard/vocals). They were joined by drummer Mark Dawson.
FutureStars hosts Leo Bayless Hall and Allison Kennedy claim to be unbiased, although — and I might be totally wrong about this — I have the feeling one of them may have been harboring a barely discernible favoritism. | Host Micheal Moreno (arms up) dubs Amelia and Julius co-FutureStars 2009.
This year, FutureStars was — even more — energizing, oozing with talent, spectacular. It astounds me how this annual production keeps getting better. This year’s competition was “district wide,” meaning that talent from Huron, Community, and Skyline added their magic to the mix.
FutureStars 2009 was masterfully directed by U-M School of Music, Theatre & Dance students Sadie Yarrington (Pioneer Theatre Guild, 2007); Amanda Choate; Desi Oakley; and Han Park. Special guest judges included Angela Corsi (Miss Michigan 2007), Roger LeLievre (Ann Arbor News Music Writer), Zack Pearlman (Pioneer Theatre Guild, 2006), and Robb Woulfe (Executive Director of the Ann Arbor Summer Festival).
While shooting, I was continuously dazzled by the lighting design of the show. I receive emails from photographers all over the country asking me for tips for taking great production shots. The trick, I tell them, is well-conceived and executed stage lighting. Many thanks to lighting designers Stephanie Garris and Evan Park, and lighting supervisor Zach LeDuc (Pioneer Theatre Guild, 2007) for laying down some delicious photons.
Other, well-deserved press for FutureStars:
- Ann Arbor News (on the finals, includes gorgeous photos by Ann Arbor News photographer Leisa Thompson, who was on the other side of the stage)
- Encore A2 (Ann Arbor News Music Reviewer — and FutureStars 2009 judge! — Roger LeLievre’s impressions of the finals)
- The Ann Arbor Chronicle (on one of the four FutureStars preliminary competitions, Love Sucks; I contributed the photos)