FitzGerald’s Main Stage will be the site when the “Danza Viva & Wednesday Journal Talent Search 2006” reaches its dramatic conclusion, as 12 performers in four categories face off in the finals. But the audience will not just be treated to great amateur performances. Danza Viva’s One World Dance Theater will also take the stage. There’s a cover charge of $10 per adult, $5 for children and the dancing and singing will kick off at 7 p.m.

“Talent Search 2006” began more than a month ago at FitzGerald’s Side Bar. That night, contestants were hoping they’d survive the elimination rounds to return to the Berwyn nightclub. Only three made it in each of the four categories”Youth Dance, Youth Vocals, Adult Dance and Adult Vocals.

Among the survivors in Adult Vocals this past weekend was Christina Meadowcroft. At 36, the Oak Park resident is also the oldest performer in the contest. When she’s not working her day job, Meadowcroft sings with her band Code West with husband Michael on lead guitar. When Meadowcroft performed in the semi-finals at La Piazza’s jazz club, Sotto, Michael made the mistake of leaving his seat. The club was so packed he found himself standing the rest of the afternoon.

Meadowcroft thrilled the Sotto audience with her bluesy voice on “The Chokin’ Kind,” a song selected by her father. “The crowd was insane,” Meadocroft said, “and the venue was wonderful.” The judges thought Meadowcroft was wonderful, citing her “confidence and conviction.” They loved how Meadowcroft made the song her own.

Singing solo is quite a bit different for Meadowcroft than fronting a band. “There’s a sense of urgency,” she said. “You really have to bring it. There’s more leeway with a band; you don’t have to showcase your voice.”

During auditions, Meadowcroft showcased her voice on “The Star Spangled Banner,” a song she had also done at U.S. Cellular Field. Later, at Slaton’s Supper Club, she raised the room temperature with “At Last,” an Etta James number. “It was quite an experience,” Meadowcroft said. “Nothing compares to it. Not even the White Sox game.” She wasn’t just excited by the crowd’s reaction, she was happy that the black dress she wore cost only $5.

Meadowcroft has been singing the blues since she soloed on “Breaking Up Is Hard To Do” in fourth grade. Although singing is a hobby, she’d like to make a career out of it. As for the contest, “I could use the money, but I’m in it for fun.”

“Fun” is the word that comes to mind when Aaron Gordon takes the stage. During his rendition of “Must Be Nice,” the crowd at Sotto was literally whooping it up. Wearing a red shirt, with black pants and vest, Gordon won accolades from the judges. They praised his “fantastic control and great variety.” One judge told him, “You know when to let go and when to hold back.”

When it comes to singing, nothing holds Gordon back. “I am passionately connected to the music,” he declared.

Simone Woods, another soulful singer, also advanced to the finals. While she sang the up-tempo R & B song, “I Just Want It to Be Over,” the crowd just wanted it to go on. They burst into applause throughout the performance. The judges applauded her as a “fun, natural performer.”

Woods also has a good heart, mentoring high school students and helping them through the process of getting their college degrees. When she’s not performing on stage, she sings in her church choir. What will she sing at Fitzgerald’s? “I’m going to do something completely different on Thursday,” Woods said.

And now for something completely different, we turn to Adult Dance. The semi-final competition was held at the Danza Viva Studio on May 19. In keeping with the classy surroundings, the audience was treated to a wine and cheese reception before and after the dancing.

Jasmine Collins got things going with her hip-hop dance to “Old School vs. New School.” Sporting red pants, a gray sweatshirt and a camouflage hat, Collins had the audience clapping along to her routine. She also displayed a “mean” attitude in her “old school” persona, tossing her towel into a judge’s face.

The judges praised her nonetheless for her “spectacular moves and sharp technique” and the good time they had throughout her dance.

When Mickey D. Smith, Jr. performed his ballet/modern dance to “I Put A Spell On You,” the audience was literally spellbound. Dressed in a white shirt, black tie and no shoes, Smith performed his patented leaps. Displaying strong energy throughout, Smith used the whole floor to show off his great technique. He also used a chair to show off his flawless sense of balance. Like many great dancers, Smith didn’t just execute moves”he told a story.

Keeley Morris was also praised for “talking with her body” during her theatrical performance of “You Ain’t Really Down.” Morris had already danced this piece at the 19th Century Club but did it this time minus the Afro. “I just wanted to change it up a little bit,” Morris said.

Morris noted that the judges were “tougher this time, focusing on technique.” The judges were also “big dogs” with professional backgrounds in ballet and ballroom. “The feedback was valuable,” Morris said, “even if I didn’t advance.”

If the judges made her nervous, the audience put her completely at ease. “The applause during my dance really pumped me up,” Morris said, “It helps you perform at a higher level. You’re not wondering what they’re thinking.”

Tomorrow night at FitzGerald’s, the audience can help these dancers and singers reach their highest level, as the “Danza Viva & Wednesday Journal Talent Search 2006” crowns four champions.

Everyone is invited.

John Rice

John Rice is a columnist/private detective, who has seen his business and family thrive in Forest Park. He thoroughly enjoys life in the village and still gets a thrill smelling Red Hots, watching softball...