Ten area high school students — half of them from Johnson County — are headed to the finals to compete for the title of KC SuperStar and a $10,000 scholarship at the American Idol-style contest.
The 10 were chosen from 23 semifinalists Monday before a full-house in White Theatre at the Jewish Community Center. Each of the semifinalists was rewarded by a sign-waving, hand-clapping audience as they took their turn onstage before a panel of four judges. They sang songs of their choice accompanied by recorded instrumental tracks.
The finals will be Aug. 28 at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts in Kansas City. The top four contestants are selected by judges, then the audience votes electronically to determine this year’s KC SuperStar and the winner of a the top scholarship. Second place receives a $5,000 scholarship, third receives $2,500 and fourth $1,000. The other finalists receive $500 scholarships.
The judges Monday were Brad Cunningham, Julie O’Rourke Kaul, Chris McCoy and Martha Risser. TV personality Joel Nichols was the emcee of the event and interviewed each contestant.
“As always, we had a spectacular group of kids competing in the semifinals,” said Felice Azorsky, KC SuperStar coordinator. “They really make it exciting and this year we have nine new faces from all over the metro area in the finals. The only repeater from last year’s finals is Sebastian McCarty.”
McCarty, a senior at Blue Valley North, said his experience in last year’s finals gave him confidence. “I made the finals last year after two years of not being selected at auditions,’ he said. “I thought my song was better suited for my voice this year.”
He sang “Let It Go.”
Tammy Ruder, who has produced all seven of the SuperStar competitions, praised the singing and stage presence of the semifinalists.
“They all had outstanding voices and good stage presence. They were comfortable and relaxed,” Ruder said. “I would say they are one of our more talented groups.”
Last year’s KC SuperStar was Austin Klein and the year before his brother, Keith Klein, won the title. Both are graduates of Blue Valley Northwest and now are in college.
When Lauren Taylor, an Olathe East graduate this spring, auditioned for the first time this year she sang “Everything.”
“Then the judges asked me to sing a more upbeat song. So I sang ‘Holdin’ Out for a Hero,’ ” she said.
“That worked so I decided to sing ‘Holdin’ Out for a Hero’ in the semifinals and here I am in the finals,” she said with a laugh. “I thought if it worked once, try it again. You could say it’s now my all-time favorite.”
Before this year, Maggie Manning, a senior at Blue Valley Northwest, tried out twice and didn’t make it.
“Since this is my last year in school I decided to try out again. I’m glad I did,” Manning said. “After two rejections I’m really excited about making the finals with my last chance. I tried not to think about it too much because I didn’t want to be disappointed again.”
Sam Aubuchon, a freshman at Blue Springs, made the finals in his first try. “I decided to audition because some of my friends told me it was fun,” he said. “So I signed on.”
“I was a little nervous at first but when I started singing the nervousness went away and I felt pretty good,” Aubuchon said. “The crowd got into it and that really picked me up. I sang ‘All Coming Back to Me.’ I’d heard it before and thought it would be a good song for me.”
Haley Shatto, a Blue Valley West senior, also admitted to being a little nervous — because she was the first contestant to sing.
“Being first bothered me when I walked out on stage but the audience was so upbeat and enthusiastic I quickly got over it,” she said. I had a lot of family and friends from school there and that helped. One good thing about being first I got to sit back and listen to everyone else. I didn’t make it the first two times I auditioned, so I’m glad I tried again.”
Rob Riggle, a comedian and film actor, will be the celebrity emcee at the finals again this year. Former Kansas City Chief Will Shields will be honored as the Community SuperStar.
KC SuperStar finalists
Sam Aubuchon, Blue Springs, sang “All Coming Back to Me”
Elise Dorsey, Shawnee Mission Northwest, sang “I Have Nothing”
AnnaMaire Hurst, Center, sang “Hollow”
Maggie Manning, Blue Valley Northwest, sang “Gravity”
Sebastian McCarty, Blue Valley North, sang “Let It Go”
Ansonia Serrano, Grain Valley, sang “Confetti”
Haley Shatto, Blue Valley West, sang “Stay”
Lauren Taylor, Olathe East, sang “Holdin’ Out for a Hero”
Madi Toman, Paola, sang “Oh Darling”
Valiante Waltz, Raymore-Peculiar, sang “Jealous”