By Adam Taxin
Published Tuesday, July 27, 2011
The critical Round 4 (of 5) of Delco Idol starts on the Media Theatre stage tonight at 7 PM.
Predictably enough, some juggernauts have by now emerged from the crowd of 25 remaining performers.
The 800-pound gorilla in the competition is 18-year-old incoming-New York University-sophomore Melanie Herrera of Wallingford. Last week, Herrera, looking elegant in a simple indigo summer dress, gave a lovely, no-need-to-show-off-her-full-vocal-strength performance of the Gershwins’ “Someone To Watch Over Me.” One had the sense that she completely believed the words she was singing. Casual discussions with judges and critics suggest little disagreement with the assessment of Herrera by professional actor Michael Hagan. Earlier this week, Hagan wrote, for this internet publication, that Herrera is “a future star” who “has it all: style, voice, acting ability, looks.”
But if other contestants might understandably view Herrera in much the way National League teams this year view the Philadelphia Phillies, it would not be inappropriate to view Ambria Smith (15, Media) the way the rest of the American League regards the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees (Sorry, Texas Rangers fans, your team isn’t quite at that level.) Smith played the piano while performing Alicia Keys’ “Superwoman.”
Ability to accompany oneself on a musical instrument should not, in this reviewer’s opinion, qualify for “extra credit” when judges evaluate performances. On the other hand, if self-accompaniment places something of a stumbling block in the way of a contestant’s vocal performance or interaction with the audience, contestants should lose points accordingly. Smith’s expressive, in terms of body movements especially, playing of the piano was the rare example of a contestant really enhancing a performance by playing an instrument. Smith’s nuanced rendition exhibited the cool confidence appropriate for the song. Smith sang Alicia Keys’ “If I Ain’t Got You” in Week 2 and sang Norah Jones’ “Don’t Know Why” in Week 1. Should she be as successful performing, say, a showstopper, whether pop-via-country (e.g.,, “I Will Always Love You” … Whitney Houston version, not Dolly Parton version, version), rock power ballad (e.g., “Alone” by Heart) or leading lady-showcasing Broadway standard (e.g., “Some People” from Gypsy), Smith would, in this reviewer’s opinion, become just as much a favorite to win the competition next week as Herrera is.
Philadelphia Jewish Culture Examiner considers Brian McFadden (24, Drexel Hill) the third-most-likely candidate to win. For what it is worth, the St. Joseph’s University graduate McFadden is at the top end of the age range, works full-time and, unlike Herrera and Smith, is not a beautiful young female. Based on his performances of “When You Say You Love Me” by Josh Groban last week and of “Lost in the Wilderness” from Children of Eden two weeks ago, McFadden has, for this reviewer at least, the competition’s most memorable pure voice. McFadden fits more into the “pure singer” than “performer” category, but sometimes just a totally-just-focused-on-singing effort can be more memorable than putting on a show, as was the case, e.g., with Marvin Gaye’s ultracool-but-outstanding performance of the National Anthem at the 1983 NBA All-Star Game.
In this day and age, it is not entirely outside the realm of possibility that ultraresistant superbugs and international travel could, in the very near future, combine to create a strep throat epidemic which could, say, debilitate Herrera, Smith and McFadden for the final show next week. Under such a scenario, the contestants most likely to emerge as favorites would be Anna Phillips (15, Lansdowne, performed George Gershwin’s “Summertime” from Porgy and Bess during Round 3), Jenna Sharples (14, Berwyn, performed Green Day’s “21 Guns” during Round 3) and Camille Mola (performed “I’m Not Afraid” from Jason Robert Brown’s Songs From A New World during Round 3).
Guest reviewer Becca Taber, in her article on Week 3, praised Anna Phillips’s presence and “appropriate and well-thought-out outfit.” Phillips, in a black dress that recalled another, more glamorous era, was extremely soulful and bluesy in her performance of “Summertime.” Given the summer-in-Charleston, South Carolina-like weather last week (and the fact that no one selected Cole Porter’s “Too Darn Hot” from Kiss Me, Kate), Mola had the most fitting song choice of all contestants.
Jenna Sharples hit blackjack with “21 Guns.” Sharples pulled off a rock-star persona at the time as she looked ultra-sincere while singing, which can be difficult to do. Sharples’s Week 3 performance provided an attention-grabbing contrast from her humorous Week 2 performance of the not-well-known “Joey Is A Punk Rocker.”
Camille Mola during showed tremendous range and seemed particularly absorbed into her performance.
A bit more under the radar is Kyleigh Bleacher (14, Ridley Park). Bleacher outstandingly performed a patriotic country song called “Hero,” which contains a message of extreme appreciation for the sacrifices made by U.S. military personnel. This not-at-all-hopeandchangey reviewer certainly appreciated Bleacher’s selection, as inevitably did a significant part of the audience. The lyrics, which describe a “man in his uniform,” include lines such as “Defending our country/each and every day/he’s my hero/and I want to be just like him.” (Note: Philadelphia Jewish Culture Examiner has diligently tried to figure out who sings this song. However, even putting lyrics into Google was unsuccessful. If anyone can help out here…)
Tickets for tonight’s Delco Idol Round 4 show are available online.
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Believe it or not, thorough coverage of Delco Idol and Delco Idol Jr. is not doing all that much for the retirement fund of Philadelphia Jewish Culture Examiner, Adam Taxin. Taxin is available to perform work as an attorney, writer, tutor (online and in-person) and/or public-relations maven.
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