Photo by Evian Yang
Throbbing music, happy sounds, and an experienced volunteer usher seating late-comers in the packed Richmond Gateway Theatre signalled the start of RichCity Idol 2017 on Tuesday, May 30.
With a “Back to the ‘80s” theme, RichCity Idol kicked off its 14th annual show. The judges, the contestants, family and friends filled the Gateway Theatre with a happy burble of excitement as the vibrant ‘80s music amped up the energy of this all-student production.
The first great roar from the crowd came when the hosts, Adelaide Chan and Chloe Chan, welcomed everyone to the 2017 show. Throughout the evening, the duo cracked corny puns, thanked sponsors, introduced each school’s representative and generally kept things running smoothly.
Another roar greeted the parting of the curtains as the show started with an enthusiastic choreographed version of all nine contestants singing, “Love Never Felt So Good,” continuing the ‘80s theme.
The contestants, representing the winner from each of the high schools in Richmond, sang and danced their hearts out.
The judges based their scoring on musicality, charisma, and originality. As each contestant finished, the audience wondered: “Could they be the winner?”
Jaspher Ladores from Cambie secondary kicked off the performances with “Can’t Take My Eyes off of You,” accompanying himself on the acoustic guitar. His strong finish caused the room to erupt in cheers. While the judges disagreed amongst themselves whether Ladores should have included his six-month-old guitar playing skills, they did agree he was awesome with one saying: “You sounded like an idol,” resulting in more screams and cheering from the audience.
Angela Serias from McNair sang second. Judge Alexi Johnson noted: “That final note was incredible. Be confident because you wowed that stage.”
While judge and RichCity Idol voice coach, Jessica Zraly, said: “Your stage presence is amazing. You should be super proud.” We wondered if this could be the one.
Maria Deng, the Grade 11 student representing Richmond secondary chose, “All at Once” by Whitney Houston. Of her, the judges said, “You chose a very risky song and completely owned it. It is a very powerful song.”
Palmer’s Samuel Fernandez followed with a Bruno Mars song.
When Fernandez started to dance as well, the audience once again erupted enthusiastically.
“It was a complete mic drop moment when you started doing the moonwalk. Bruno Mars is not easy to sing. Huge bonus points for you, for your connection with the crowd,” one judge said.
McRoberts’s Megumi Randall started her song, “Desperado” sitting on the edge of the stage. Her performance started softly and grew from there. Of her performance, the judges called her work, “Awesome, perfect,” and continued with, “It’s wonderful how you’re only 18 because it seems like you’ve been doing this for 30 years; There’s so much confidence, maturity and beauty in what you did.”
Then Vivian Wu from MacNeill performed with power and soul.
Of her, the judges said, “You’ve got a huge voice. I think you really connected with that song and you really owned the stage. You have a lot of sass and a lot of character, walking around barefoot. I love your voice.”
Another referenced her short stature and said: “You may be a little thing but you have a very big voice. You chose a very difficult song. You look like a diva and feel like a diva. Your confidence was 100 per cent.”
It left the audience wondering if Wu would be a finalist.
Next up, Marielle Namuco said that other than karaoke, she didn’t start singing until school choir in Grade 10 at Burnett.
Namuco told the hosts that she considered herself a very awkward person, that music helps her express herself because she’s not good at coming up with words herself.
During her intro, the hosts asked her greatest fear. Namuco replied: “Crying on stage.”
During her performance, each time she reached the musical bridge, the room erupted in enthusiastic cheers.
Later, one judge said of her performance: “When the light didn’t come on for a second, you handled that like a boss; you didn’t let it throw you off your game at all. I thoroughly enjoyed that performance.”
Added another: “You are not awkward at all. You are in my opinion the highlight of tonight. I really really wish that you started to sing earlier.You didn’t find your passion until Grade 10. You have a fantastic voice. I loved the pacing at the beginning. I liked the personality. You are so cute on stage. You can adapt to any kind of singing and song.”
It was one of the stand-outs of the evening for crowd response.
Next up: Grade 11, Mark Cam from Steveston-London. Before his performance, Cam stopped a moment to graciously thank everyone including the backstage crew.
With a fedora tipped back on his head, sitting at the piano, Cam played with confidence as he sang Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror” as a rueful ballad of self-discovery.
The room roared and clapped enthusiastically as he finished.
Judge Bruce Nip said: “You can rule just about anyone with that performance. I absolutely loved the original rendition of Man in the Mirror. You tell us a story from the beginning, with a problem and at the end, you have a resolution. How you arranged it shows that story. I’ve never seen a performance tonight that told a story. Your performance shows that. You did a wonderful job.”
Another judge said: “You have such a sultry sound to your voice that’s really easy to listen to. Like how you moved the bench. And you know how Man in the Mirror was an upbeat song. I like how you turned it into a ballad. The story of the song. You did a really good job. I’m so proud.”
Which was followed by even more loud cheering, leaving us wondering if would he take home the title of RichCity Idol.
The first half of the evening closed out with Audrey De Boer, the youngest of the evening, a Grade 9 from McMath Secondary School.
The day’s events at her school in Steveston with RCMP and a code yellow and a boy in custody, long forgotten.
Carrying on the 80s theme, De Boer rocked the joint with “Somebody to Love” by Queen. Starting her performance backlit, De Boer went from strength to strength, engaging the audience which spontaneously clapped along. The loudest cheer of the evening blasted from attendees as she finished her number.
Judge Johnson went first noting: “That was a flawless vocal performance,” and urged De Boer to be even more confident, saying, “Don’t be afraid cause your voice will take you there.”
Another judge said: “It’s a great way to end this first half. You have a great voice, with those huge powerhouse vocals. It was a wonderful performance, a great way to end the set.”
A third judge told De Boer: “You chose a really good song to end this RichCity idol with. It really suited your voice.”
The judges gave their choice for the five finalists: Deng, Cam, Randall, Fernandez, and Namuco. Each of the five gave a short a cappella sample of their song.
With that, the audience headed off to the lobby to vote to whittle it down to the three finalists during the intermission.
As intermission ended, and the audience votes were tallied, the MacNeill trio danced with enthusiasm and skill, the Steveston-London Dance Team wowed with their moves and precision, and last year’s RichCity Idol winner, Patrick Doctolero, performed Alicia Keys’ “If I ain’t got You” to an enthusiastic reception.
A short series of speeches outlined the work done by students to put the entire production together, citing the three pillars of RichCity Idol: Music, community and leadership.
The two RichCity Idol scholarships awarded, the judges announced the three finalists.
They huddled together while the rankings came out. With her name announced the winner, Namuco, crouched down, hiding her face in her hands, as the audience outdoes itself with an even louder roar of enthusiastic joy, and balloons tumbled down to the stage.
After a group hug amongst all the contestants, the finale began, with all nine finalists singing yet another great ‘80s hit together, passing the solos up and down the group.
The entire production produced completely by students from the performers, the lighting and sound, the front of house, the organisers and the publicist, went off with few hitches.
A couple of slow lighting cues, possible in the most professional of productions, proved that an entirely volunteer-run student production can excel.
Even the program, produced by students, was well-done. All in all, RichCity Idol is a chance for Richmond’s finest pool of talented students to truly shine. All in all, a night they can be proud of.