Eighteen finalists. Five judges. One winner.
Some talented Darienite will be taking home a first-place prize of $500 this Saturday, when the first Darien’s Got Talent event hits Town Hall at 7.
“With a few special surprises, the evening is taking on a life of its own,” said Carole Claps, director of the show and board member of the non-profit Darien Arts Center, which is holding the event as a fund-raiser to support its ongoing programs. “This was our first year, we didn’t know what to expect… It’s just sensational.”
Not only will guests have a chance to be wowed by some of the areas most talented musicians and dancers, but they will also experience the judging styles of professional entertainers who have blazed their own trail in their respective industries.
Darien native Dan Micciche, the youngest actor to play the role of Mary Sunshine in the Broadway musical “Chicago,” will take his bow on the Broadway stage of the Ambassador Theatre in New York City on Friday night, and less than 24 hours later he will be at Town Hall to help judge the final round of competition.
“He is such a virtuoso,” Claps said. Micciche honed his chops in Darien High School’s Theatre 308, and is now a voice teacher and performer living in New York City.
Seventy-five people signed up for the talent show, and earlier judges narrowed the field down to 18 finalists. It was originally supposed to be 15 finalists, but the talent field was so robust the organizers decided to allow three more into the final round.
The ages of the finalists range from 10 to 53, and the talents range from guitarists, a live band and hip hop dancers, to pianists, singers and Irish step dancers. The talent show was the brain child of the arts center’s executive director, Amy Allen, who conceived the idea when she took over operations more than three years ago.
“Right from the beginning I thought we needed a talent show to reach out to community and involve people who have never thought of themselves as artists,” said Allen — allowing them to participate in creative activities and inspire new talents and new students.”
Allen said it was inspiring to watch people who have never performed on stage before express themselves during auditions. “People came out of the woodwork,” she said. “I have to say it was most inspiring to see those who have probably never performed on a stage, get up there with a skateboard, their dogs, hula hoops, with their guts and courage and perform an audition.”
Initially the talent pool was limited to Darien residents and workers, but they decided to open up the field to anyone. Four of the 18 finalists are from out of town, Claps said, but the anonymity of the performers is paramount to prevent any conflicts of interest. Judges will only know the first name of the performer and the title of their performance pieces.
Claps herself is no stranger to theater — on stage or behind the curtain — having studied musical theater with Herbert Berghof and voice with Colin Romoff in New York City. She has acted, directed, produced and taught theater throughout Fairfield County for many years.
The other judges include Darien residents John Doelp, Barbara Goldsmith and Edwin Schloss, along with Norwalk resident Dorothy Kolinsky. Doelp is a senior vice president of A&R at Columbia Records, a subsidiary of Sony Entertainment. Doelp has worked with artists such as Celine Dion, Michael Jackson, Susan Boyle, John Legend, Harry Connick, Jr. and Ricky Martin. He is also a voting member for the Grammy Awards.
Barbara Goldsmith has danced for Princeton Ballet’s senior company and went on to become an apprentice with its professional company. She also danced with the Pittsburgh Ballet Theater, the Metropolitan Opera Ballet, the Garden State Ballet, the New Jersey Ballet, and was a principal guest artist with the Buffalo Inner City Ballet Company.
Concert pianist Dorothy Kolinsky graduated from Juilliard School of Music and is a retired school teacher. She spends her time as a solo performer, duo piano and collaborative performer and accompanist. She is the pianist for the Norwalk Symphony, as well as the répétiteur for the Darien Troupers Light Opera, a member of the Schubert Club of Fairfield County Piano Ensemble Performers, and recently was soloist in the Schumann Piano Concerto with the Connecticut Chamber Orchestra.
Edwin Schloss won a Tony Award for co-producing the 2010 Broadway revival of La Cage Aux Folles, and has received four Tony nominations as an associate producer for several other productions. He is a member of the Broadway League and a Tony voter, and has seen more than 80 musicals during the past two seasons. He lives in Darien with his wife, Maureen, and their two daughters.
But it takes more than judges to make the night a success. Tickling the ivories for those who might need musical accompaniment is local star Chris Coogan, a musician who the New York Times said is “…a masterful pianist.”
Three people will share the MC duties: First Selectman Jayme Stevenson, who, as a longtime singer, said she’s thinking about trying out for next year’s Darien’s Got Talent; Dr. Debi Boccanfuso, who has been the principal of Middlesex Middle School for 8 of her 26 years at the school, and was honored this year as a YWCA woman of distinction; and 17-year-old Niya Wright, the Darien High School Class of 2012 president and A Better Chance Darien scholar.
Of course nothing would have happened without the help of volunteers and sponsors, Allen said. The after-theater reception chairman, Cathy Thomas, has been working with a staff of volunteers for weeks for what is expected to be an event to remember, with in-kind donations coming from many of Darien’s local merchants such as Andrew Stefanou Salon & Spa, Darien Carpet, European Hotel Silver, Good Food Good Things, Nichols Roberts LTD, Fine Wine Merchants, Nielsen’s Florist, Patty Reiss Patty Cakes and Whole Foods Market, helping to supply most of what is needed for the event.
One sponsor, Andrew Stefanou Salon & Spa, has agreed to provide all 18 finalists with professional makeup and hair services to prepare them for their finals performances.
Twenty-eight sponsors underwrote the production of the event, Allen said, and she expressed much gratitude to these individuals for their kindness in helping to make Darien’s Got Talent a success. The Arts Center hopes to raise around $20,000 for the event, a much needed capital injection for the non-profit that provides many services to Darien and Fairfield County.
“I hope it’s a sell-out,” Allen said. The Town Hall auditorium holds 425 people.
The Darien Arts Center offers educational programming in dance, visual arts, theater and music, as well as productions from its performing arts wing, the Darien Players and Cabaret Theatre. Proceeds from the Darien’s Got Talent, as well as private donations, tuition fees and ticket sales, go toward funding these creative endeavors and help to continue the ongoing efforts of the arts center.
Tickets may only be purchased online at arts.darien.org. Tickets cost $35 for adults and $25 for children 12 and under. Premium seating cost $75 and includes an after-theater champagne reception. More info: 203-655-8683.