Story by Yashowanto Ghosh, Staff Writer
Photo courtesy of Yashowanto Ghosh
On Friday, Feb. 18, seven Aquinas students put on a show of a variety of performing arts for a lively audience in the Wege Ballroom for the third annual “AQ’s Got Talent.”
The show consisted of six competing acts, with two of the performers acting out a movie scene together. The judges were professors Dave Weinandy, Francine Paolini and head coach of the E-sports team Adam Antor.
The first performer was senior Simon Vernon, who sang an original song called “Leper,” while also accompanying himself on the piano. I had heard the song before in his senior recital last semester. Antor said he felt the emotion in Vernon’s voice; Paolini said Vernon’s intonation was better in the softer moments. Weinandy commented that the song, though original, did not sound as though it was homemade.
The second act was sophomore Izzy Schmall, who sang “Read my Mind” by The Killers and accompanied herself on the guitar. Paolini said Schmall had a tentative start but came through from the first chorus onward, and Weinandy agreed and added that Schmall owned the song in the end. Antor said he loved the earthy feel to Schmall’s voice and advised her to test her upper vocal range.
Next up was sophomore Bridgette Slezak, who tap-danced to “Don’t You Worry ’Bout a Thing.” Paolini said she could see Slezak’s love of performing. Weinandy noted how Slezak felt every note, every word, and every beat, while Antor praised Slezak’s unique talent.
The fourth performer was freshman Zach Avery, who sang “Snoopy” from the musical “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown.” Antor commented that Avery’s stage presence was on point and said a wireless mic would have made more movement possible. Paolini noticed how Avery took his time telling the story in the song. Weinandy commented on Avery’s range—“not just vocally, but in emotions”—and how Avery had no nerves.
After Avery, sophomore Brandy Holt sang an original song, while also accompanying herself on the piano. Paolini talked about how the song had the same dynamic repeating in its first part, but broke the pattern after the bridge. Weinandy said the piano was competing with Holt’s voice in the beginning, but the song became catchy by the end. Antor said the song had given him full-body chills.
The final performance of the first round saw sophomore Maddie Anderson and junior Emily Bolek perform the first half of the fight scene from the film “Marriage Story,” with Anderson playing Adam Driver’s character and Bolek playing Scarlett Johansson’s character. They promised to act out the rest of the scene if they went to the finals. Paolini said Anderson and Bolek had managed to capture all of the tortured energy between their two characters. Antor advised Anderson and Bolek to think about delivery in terms of timing. Weinandy felt entertained because Anderson and Bolek were entertained themselves.
Next, local band, The Hacky Turtles used a golden buzzer to send Slezak to the final round and performed while the judges deliberated about the other two finalists. Ultimately, they chose Vernon and Avery.
Each of the three finalists added something to their respective acts for the final round. Slezak, who went first, both tap-danced and sang “Tap Your Troubles Away” by Mack & Mabel. Paolini pointed out how Slezak’s tapping was even more enthusiastic in her second performance, the singing infusing it with an extra dimension. Weinandy said the Slezak’s second performance was to her first one as college is to middle school; Antor called it awesome.
Next, Vernon sang another original song, “Hostage,” but his musical accompaniment was audio interface, so he was able to stand up and sing; he asked the audience to stand up too, and soon everyone was dancing. Paolini said the passion really came through in Vernon’s performance and advised him to explore his falsetto. Weinandy was sold on the passion, the writing, and the performance, praising how Vernon fills the stage. He did, however, want more variety in the songs. Antor said Vernon’s performance had put into words something Antor had felt throughout the performance but did not know how to articulate.
For the final performance of the contest, Avery sang Rebecca Sugar’s “Love Like You,” and his added dimension was that he accompanied himself on the piano. Paolini said it felt like having coffee with a friend. Weinandy praised the subtlety of the performance, while Antor likened it to Mr. Rogers.
When the judges went to a neighboring room to pick the winner, the Hacky Turtles took the stage again. After their set, the winners were announced: Slezak took third place, Vernon second, and Avery won the first prize, which was three hundred dollars. The evening ended with Anderson and Bolek playing, by popular demand, the second half of the “Marriage Story” fight scene.