Dancers 3D step in line for shot at Top Talent crown
FROM spandex-clad teenage boys doing their finest Beyonce impressions to a musical classic receiving the alternative treatment – the final heat of Stoke's Top Talent was an entertainment rollercoaster.
The past week has seen singers, dancers, magicians and comedians all taking to The Regent theatre stage hoping to win a place in today's final.
And last night saw another tough night for the competition's judges as they were forced to make the unenviable decision of selecting just two acts from the talented 10 all hoping to get the nod.
He may have spent the opening moments munching on biscuits, judge Christian Patterson was almost left choking on them as the high-tempo Limited Edition exploded on to the stage.
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The 14-strong dance group tore through a medley of hip hop music as they dazzled in their pink jeans and black leather jackets. But any reference to the musical Grease was wide of the mark as the bunch of talented teens made the Pink Ladies look decisively decrepit.
Top Talent judge Louise Dearman, a star of the West End, said: "That was a lot of hard work and it has obviously taken a lot of time and discipline."
And it was an altogether different mood when singer and guitarist Jodi Carthy took to the stage to perform a stunning mix which included Adele, Katy Perry and Kings of Leon.
While Adele has become the artist of choice for talent show competitors, the 26-year-old, of Oakhill, ensured her show was different by combining various genres to produce a tender acoustic offering. Producer and judge Kevin Wood said: "We all had smiles on our faces during that performance."
Those smiles soon turned into grins and laughter as Chesterton comedy duo Martyn Baxter and Cole Dunn performed to a number of pop tunes in their own unique style.
The comedians, both aged 17, had the audience in stitches as they danced to Beyonce.
The diverse nature of the evening was further underpinned as the comedy duo, still in their vests, exited the stage and 19-year-old Tony Boardman emerged.
The teenager, from Alsager, who was once part of the National Youth Brass Band for Great Britain, performed West Side Story classic Somewhere in his own haunting style.
It was a more traditional showing from singer Billie-Dee Williams, who wowed the audience with her version of Queen's The Show Must Go On.
The 27-year-old, from Chesterton, injected a dose of glamour into proceedings as her voice filled the theatre leaving judge Louise branding her 'a powerhouse'.
Up next was Porthill guitarist and singer Daniel Cooper who performed The Killers' hit Mr Brightside in his own acoustic style. But just when the audience was settling down, a sudden beat lifted the performance to a much more powerful offering. But as the dust settled from the 26-year-old's efforts, teenager Aaron Bryan ensured the mood remained upbeat with a startling dance performance.
The 14-year-old, of Sneyd Green, lulled the audience into a false sense of security by gracefully strutting across the stage in a ballet style before the stage was rocking to the sounds of bass-driven dance music. And his body responded remarkably to any shift in tune as the teenager brought the judges to their feet.
"We can all dance like that in Sneyd Green," enthused judge and Sentinel columnist Martin Tideswell.
The oldest of the evening's contestants, Alan Marshall, then offered a beautiful version of Love Is A Many Splendored Thing. The self-taught 65-year-old, of Dresden, lists fishing as a hobby and had both the audience and judges hooked with the number.
When considering bands like the White Stripes, the ukulele doesn't always spring to mind.
But 15-year-old Shae Maunders, of Newcastle, used the instrument to great effect as she performed a medley of hits with a smile on her face and a twinkle in her eye.
The night ended with dance group 3D – three 11 year olds from Norton and Weston Coyney. And anyone who may have dismissed the final act as simply plucky youngsters was very wrong. Their confident performance was an offering far above their years.
And they proved that they were saving the best to last by winning a place in tonight's final alongside Shae Maunders.
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The line dance group are all aged 11 and come from Weston Coyney and Norton.
Danielle McNally said: "We think we did our best and all really enjoyed it. We've been dancing for six years but only been working on this routine since last week. We cannot thank the judges enough for putting us through."
2) SHAE MAUNDERS
The 15-year-old ukulele player, from Newchapel, said: "This instrument is getting quite popular just lately so I hope I'm here at the right time. I did four songs including one of my own. I thought I would be nervous but I wasn't and I think that is how I've made it through to the final."
3) LIMITED EDITION
The dance group is made up of 11 Stoke-on-Trent girls, aged 11 to 16. Megan Rogers, aged 16, said: "We did the best we could and have been practising at Studio One, Longton, for ages."
4) JODI CARTHY
The singer-songwriter, aged 26, lives in Oakhill and has been playing guitar for 15 years. The district nurse, who covers Abbey Hulton, performed a mix-up of four chart songs. She said: "I had great feedback from the judges although they spotted I was a bit nervous."
5) MARTYN AND COLE
Martyn Baxter and Cole Dunn, both aged 17, are a comedy duo from Chesterton. Martyn said: "We are not your normal duo and we like to interpret life and mix things up a bit. It was a real buzz when the laughs came."
6) TONY BOARDMAN
The 19-year-student, from Alsager, sings and plays trombone and guitar. He performed Somewhere from West Side Story.
Tony, who plays in experimental rock band The Flares, said: "I had some nerves but it seemed to go OK and I got good constructive criticism from the judges."
7) BILLIE-DEE WILLIAMS
Funk singer and medical rep Billie-Dee, aged 27, from Chesterton, has been a finalist twice before. She performed Queen's The Show Must Go On.
Billie-Dee said: "I just went for broke and sang from my toes up. I was ready to collapse at the end and think I gave it my all."
8) ALAN MARSHALL
The tenor, aged 65, from Dresden, has been singing for more than half a century. The self-employed plumber performed Love Is A Many Splendored Thing. He said: "I have had a lot of tragedy in my life and am dedicating the song to one of the judges who has also had a sad loss. I would love to make it as a professional."
9) AARON BRYAN
The 14-year-old, from Sneyd Green, is a talented singer and dancer.
He said: "It went really well. I did street dance but I hope I surprised the audience by starting with Swan Lake before moving into dubstep. I choreographed my routine in my living room only a week ago."
10) DANIEL COOPER
The 26-year-old, from Wolstanton, has been singing and playing guitar for six years. He covered the Killers' Mr Brightside. Daniel said: "I play in a band called Mistaken for Strangers and we have played the Sugarmill and the Underground but this was completely different."