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Tupper’s talent takes center stage

Dan McClelland

By Rich Rosentreter
    The stage lights were shining just as bright as the talent it was focused on during last week’s Tupper Lake’s Got Talent event held in a jam-packed auditorium at the middle high school.
Indeed, this town’s talent was on full display, and the sign above the stage the read “Talent Show” in big, bold letters served as a stark reminder of the treat that all in attendance would witness. The show returned this year after a several year absence.
    Each show in recent years has produced memorable moments, and this year was no different. There were exceptional individual and group performances, and heroic drum solo and a jaw-dropping grand finale by someone who was on stage while the judges selected the night’s winners. Perhaps the most touching moment came with the joy felt by 10-year-old Ayden Rabideau, when the youngster, who has been blind sincebirth,  was honored with The Most Courageous Award for his performance on drums.
The evening’s top awards, which included a prize, went to Matthew Varden for best solo and Rhythm Jax for best group. The Judge’s Choice Awards went to Ben Jones for best solo and The Kool Kids for best group.
Although not every act to hit the stage won an award, each deserves plenty of recognition and praise for trying their best and being a part of a great community event.
    From the opening act to the final one of the evening, the audience was treated to a plethora of performances that had the audience cheering, clapping and entertained. Adding to the wonderful atmosphere were the pair entrusted with the job of Masters of Ceremonies – Kelly Wight, who was festively decked out with a blue wig and bright yellow dress, and Matt Southwick, whose fancy tuxedo appropriately made him appear to be the host of the Academy Awards. Thoughout the show, the pair kept the mood festive with funny one-liners and jokes.
The acts
    The first group to hit the stage was the Lumberjack Rockettes, who strut their stuff decked in cowboy hats and boots singing LoCash’s “I Love This Life.” The handsomely clad group trounced on the stage in song and dance that really got the audience going and set the mood for all the wonderful acts to follow.
    The mood shifted gears as Matthew Varden unleashed his musical and singing talent. He sat in front of the stage at the piano and as the spotlight beamed down, Varden hit the keyboards and all the challenging notes of the Sam Smith classic song. His effort earned him the Best Solo Award, which included a $100 Amazon gift card.
    It was certainly an award-winning effort, and one that was hard to follow, but the next act was pretty cool.
    The Kool Kids, Kendall Kenniston, Taylor Stoll, Karter Kenniston and Luke Robillard, took the stage to perform a mix of songs from the musical “Grease.” These youngsters captured the mood of the 1950s scene by wearing leather coats and slicked back hair, with a nice added touch of sideburns. The group sang and danced in such a lively manner they were honored with one of the judges’ choice awards.
    The next performer to hit the stage was Ayden Rabideau. It was just him and his drum set alone in the spotlight of the big stage, and the youngster performed a nice steady beat. The performance did not last very long, but it will last a long time in the memories of those who witnessed his courage. When Ayden was given his award later, he could not hide his joy for being recognized for his performance.
    Up next were Ravyn Sotomayor and Caterra Ratelle, who combined for a nice duet to sing “My Love/Sit Still Look Pretty.” They were accompanied by Karin Ryan on guitar and the girls shined in the lights as they harmonized together.
    One of the performers who hit the stage next had some previous experience in the local scene, as Seth McGowan once worked as a music teacher. He joined the stage with Karin Ryan to form The Seth and Karin Show as the duo strummed their acoustic guitars and sang “American Tune,” by Paul Simon.
    After a short intermission, the show continued with Kendall Davison and Mitch Jensen, who performed “The Flat’s a Mess.” This act meshed music with humorous lyrics as Jensen strummed on his ukulele and Davison added her unique style of humorous facial expressions, and this performance garnered some laughs as the two worked in excellent unison.
    Each of the following acts provided the audience with a nice representation of Tupper Lake’s young talents. Gwen Kulzer was up next and was joined by Lauren Lamere in a backup vocal role. Kulzer sang “I’m Not Clay” by Grace VanderWaal. Gracie Mitchell stood tall as she stood on stage alone and sang a nice rendition of “Hallelujah.”  She was accompanied by Liz Cordes who played the piano. Rylee LaBarge and Rebecca Becker used their saxophones to perform“Wooden Shoe Dance.”
Once again the mood shifted as Ben Jones used his electric guitar to jam “Hypnotize Guitar” in an award-winning effort that saw him creatively use the lighting to shift gears from slow to fast, going back and forth, with each riff demonstrating his talent on the instrument.
The finale for the night had an altogether different feel as Rhythm Jax used the stage to re-enact a scene from the musical Annie. The group performed “It’s a Hard Knock Life,” with Angel Schaeffer, Ava Lilley, Charlie Pickering, Elli Dukett, AnnieJade McCottery, Karen Bujold, Lauren LaMere, Liza Bujold, Lucy Edwards andHeather Schaeffer. When they were informed that they had won a prize, a pizza party at Little Italy worth $50, the entire group jumped with joy.
Each performer was presented with a Tupper Lake’s Got Talent T-shirt during a ceremony at the end of the show.
Closing act
When Southwick and Wight informed the audience that it was time to decide upon the winners, everyone thought the show for the night was over. Judges Tammie Salzman, Meaghan Sparks, Chris Savage, Kate Bennett and Mayor Paul Maroun had their hands full when they were charged with that task and they disappeared. As each of the talent show participants garnered loud applause and appreciation from the audience, an act was announced that would keep the crowd entertained while the judges were off deliberating.
    In the program, it was listed that Brock Gonyea “will perform while the judges deliberate.” It did not list how long he would perform, or his playlist. No one expected the poignant performance that was to follow or that he would garner the loudest applause or cheers. He started off simply enough by playing two songs.
    It was third and final song that would provide the shows lingering memory. It was his rendition of the Righteous Brothers tune “Unchained Melody,” a song that was featured in the movie “Ghost,” that truly stunned and wowed the audience.
    As Gonyea strummed his guitar and belted out the many high notes and emotions of the beloved melody, the audience sat back silently. It soon became obvious that they were mesmerized by this young man’s talent.  It was an extraordinary way to end the show.  
    After his rousing performance, members of the audience could be heard murmuring such praise as “Wow!” “Amazing” and “He’s so talented!”
    Sure, America’s Got Talent, but Tupper Lake is on the map as well.
    Tupper Lake’s Got Talent was organized by the Tupper Lake Central School District and the Tupper Lake Chamber of Commerce.