Week Two of The Media Theatre’s Delco Idol Junior competition ended with the song “Take Me Or Leave Me” from the Broadway musical Rent, performed by the energetic Teanna Rico, 13, of Folsom. The song could have easily been the week’s subtitle as each contestant performed with gusto in their unique way, thrusting their talent onto the stage with a vibrancy that seemed to shake State Street. It was as if each singer, ages 7-13, was saying, “This is what I do. Either you like it or you don’t. If you do, that’s great—but if you don’t I am sorry for you….not for me!”
Song choices with the younger Idol group on Sunday evenings tend to be more varied than their older counterpart. This is, probably, due to personalities that are still being formed and the influence of family, friends, and parents rather than the somewhat structured selections a performer is drawn to during their college years. With the younger age group, it’s more about "what is happening now" rather than "what are the judges looking for," so the audience on Sunday nights is treated to a singing slide show of kids being kids and pre-teens exposing a part of their personality that may, in a year or two, become hidden by self-conscious effort.
Within this kaleidoscope of personality, however, there are the young who have a certain amount of training. But when raw talent comes up against training it’s very difficult to declare a winner. The untrained performer might be just as compelling due to the unpredictability of what it is they do.
What it comes down to, then, on the part of each performer is, as The Media Theatre’s Artistic Director Jesse Cline explained, “Each of these young people brings who they are to the stage. It’s honest, it’s real, and it’s a pleasure to watch.”
The show moved at a quick pace and the judges (Therese Anguirita, the owner of Honey-Fix-It; Andrew Arbutina, producer for the One Song Rock Festival; Brittany Brancati, marketing director for Idol’s title sponsor Iron Workers Bank; and Cline, the one constant judge) were given plenty to choose from within the genres of pop music and Broadway. Bill Vargus, this year’s emcee, continued his brand of comfort, allowing each contestant to feel just as important as the next.
Cline, at this point in the competition, does not have time to speak to all of the contestants, but does call those to his table on stage left those he feels the urge to speak to. (None of this was planned, as Cline was not able to attend week two’s rehearsal.) During the evening, the audience is treated to his spontaneous discussion with the young contestants. Cline found Julia Kubo, 8, of Darby, to be very interesting with her rendition of Elvis’ famous “Love Me Tender” as she stood on stage and sang to a doll. He asked her, “Whose idea was that?” to which she quickly replied, “My Mom’s.” Cline smiled and said, “Well, your Mom is very clever!”
Cline also was intrigued by Katheryn Cooper, 9, of Glen Mills, who sang “Wouldn’t It Be Loverly” from My Fair Lady completely decked out in Eliza Dolittle garb. He said to her, “Last week you were Christine Daae and now this week you are Eliza Dolittle. Who will you be next week?” The tiny performer paused for a moment and then simply replied to Cline and the audience’s delight, “Myself.”
Her response was worth its weight in gold and sums up the Delco Idol Junior contest as each of the vocalists, whether approaching the stage with a guiding hand or perhaps dressed for the part, are simply just young, aspiring performers being who they are in front of a few hundred people each week during the competition. For that, they all deserve applause.
Due to the nature of the game, there were five who will not be returning for week three. They are Emma Gantard, 9, of Bryn Mawr; Patrick Gaughan, 12, of Wallingford; Caitlin Reilly, 13, of Springfield; Abigail Schwartz, 11, of Media; and Matt Tierney, 12, of Havertown. To find out who remains, and to vote for your favorite contestant, visit mediatheatre.org.