By LIZ BUTTON
Twenty acts competed for the title of “Rye’s Most Talented” last Saturday, Oct. 5 at the Rye City Lions Club’s first annual “Rye’s Got Talent” variety show.
Sponsored by the club, the net proceeds from ticket sales, concessions and a 50/50 raffle for the competition went to Guiding Eyes for the Blind and VISIONS Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired.
“It was a great success from every perspective: performers, audience and fundraising.” said Patrick MacCarthy, a Lions club member and one of the event’s organizers.
Around 275 people attended the show at Rye Country Day School’s Dunn Performing Arts Center to see middle and high school students sing, dance and stage musical performances,
An ad hoc subcommittee of the Lions Club did most of the preliminary legwork, which was comprised of MacCarthy, Lions Club president Susan Olson, former club president Janet Malang and membership chairman Tommy Maloney.
The idea was Malang’s, MacCarthy said.
“She is a fan of all the America’s Got Talent, The Voice: there are a lot of shows like that on TV nowadays. So she said, ‘Why not have an America’s Got Talent just for Rye?’”
Six different schools were represented at the competition: Rye Country Day School, Resurrection School, Fieldston School in New York City, Holy Child School and Rye Middle and High School.
“It was a really broad event in terms of participation,” MacCarthy said.
Participants won cash prizes at the show, where John O’Donnell presided as master of ceremonies. O’Donnell, a Rye Middle School language arts teacher for the past nine years, is a former member of the “Chicago City Limits” comedy revue and performs his comedy weekly in New York City.
The performances were judged by a slate of musical pros: Broadway veteran John Cunningham, who has performed in shows like “1776,” “Company” and “Titanic;” opera singer Daniele Hager, who is also a graduate of Rye Country Day; and Dutch flutist and chamber music professor Jan van den Berg.
The club gave out $750 in prize money Saturday night. The first and second place winners received $250 each and the two runners up, $125 each.
Eleventh grade student Yuika Abe won first place in the high school division with a performance of an original song she wrote entitled “Shoes,” while Nathaniel Deen, also in eleventh grade, won the second place high school prize for a tap dancing act set to “The Audition” by Al Dublin.
In her contest application, Abe said her inspiration for her compositon came when a tiny piece of wood got into her shoe but, she said, for some reason, she did not want to take it out. “There are things in life that you would not want to let go of even if it hurts to keep them, such as feelings for someone that you once cared for,” she said.
Eighth grade student Annabelle Schultz, a ballerina from Resurrection School, won first place for the middle school level, while sixth grade twins Nathaniel and Francesca Valsania from Rye Middle School won second place. The twins sang a duet of “Blowing in the Wind” with Nathaniel accompanying the pair on the ukulele.