Stoke's Top Talent 2012: Top performers leave judges lost for words
IF 12-YEAR-OLD singer Reece Barker was nervous about getting up on stage in front of hundreds of people, it didn't show.
He wowed the Regent Theatre audience with his powerful performance that reduced his family – and judge Suzanne Carly – to tears.
Reece, from Longton, put his heart and soul into his rendition of Leonard Cohen's haunting song Hallelujah – which he performed for two of his grandparents who have cancer – and secured a place in the grand final.
He will be joined by 21-year-old musician David Jimenez-Hughes, who left the judges struggling to find enough superlatives to describe his unique act.
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He managed to create the sound of many instruments with just his guitar and – even more impressively – had also composed the beautiful piece of music he performed.
Judge and pantomime producer Kevin Wood told him: "You are going to be enormous. That was tremendous. I'm blown away."
The night had kicked off with The VPs, a bhangra dance group that transformed the Potteries into a Bollywood scene for a few minutes.
With their glittering costumes and catchy music, the dancers got the night off to an energetic start.
There was a change of pace for the next act, as singer-songwriter Louise Green, from Crewe, gave an ethereal rendition of Damien Rice's tearjerker Cannonball.
Playing her guitar, the 15-year-old's voice floated through the auditorium, giving the audience goosebumps.
She was so good, in fact, that Sentinel columnist and judge Martin Tideswell dubbed her 'the best thing to come out of Crewe since Vale signed Tom Pope'.
Next up was 45-year-old Wendy Plant, from Bucknall, whose self-penned ditty took in everything from Prozac, boob jobs, a charity head shave and her flatulence problem.
Looking dazzling in a sequined Union Jack dress and silver glitter lipstick, she had the audience in stitches.
Georgia Brain, from Stone, showed she could have a future in musical theatre with her performance of Nothing from A Chorus Line.
The 15-year-old's powerful voice and confident performance impressed the judges, with West End star Suzanne admitting she could not have performed so well at that age.
Bringing something different to the night was Tunstall rapper Blake Greenwell, who did his own take of Eminem's the Real Slim Shady – The Real Slim Blakey.
Sporting a t-shirt showing the name, the 28-year-old managed a word-perfect performance of the song's tongue-twisting lyrics.
Martha Dale, aged 15, from Leek, rocked her performance of Sing, by My Chemical Romance, prompting Suzanne to say she reminded her of 'a little Florence Welch.'
Little Fiona Beeston's confident performance of Good Morning Baltimore, from musical Hairspray, was one that someone far older than her 11 years would have been proud of.
Judge Pete Conway, introduced by compere Jonathan Wilkes as 'the godfather of entertainment', told her she could have a career on the stage if she worked hard.
The night finished with a bang as dance group Diddy Rascals delivered an imaginative, high-energy routine. Inspired by the London Olympics, the patriotic performance even featured a medal presentation.
But despite high praise from the judges the four pocket-rockets missed out on gold after failing to clinch a place in the final.
As well as last night's victorious performers David and Reece, another finalist was also announced as the results of The Sentinel's internet vote came in.
More than 5,000 votes were cast and with just two hours to go until the poll closed, only three votes separated the top two acts.
Eventually, even though the top act changed a few times in the final minutes, the winner of the poll was Mini Mix, a group of singers and dancers who performed in Wednesday's heat.