Louisville’s Got Talent yields more than $50K in fundraising over six years

Emmie Siegel (right) and Mary Etscorn were the People’s Choice winners at Louiville’s Got Talent at the Ursuline Arts Center. (photos by Ed Ramsey, see gallery, page 14.)

Melissa Jones, a high school senior from Fisherville, dazzled the audience with her song and dance to “Music and the Mirror” from A Chorus Line, at Louisville’s Got Talent on April 14 at Ursuline Arts Center.
Jones was the overall winner of the competition and took home the $500 grand prize. She wasn’t entirely surprised she won. “I knew I was a contender because I worked so hard. I was very excited.” she said.
She was already working on the piece for something else when she entered the competition, so she worked on it for about two months altogether.
The homeschooled senior is moving to New York in the fall to attend the Institute of American Musical Theater, a two-year theater school.
There were 20 finalists in the competition, which saw about 90 acts at the first audition. Because many acts are groups, there were about 130 kids who auditioned, said Erin Jump, CenterStage educational programs director.
Originally conceived as a bar mitzvah project by Jake Latts, Louisville’s Got Talent has grown into its own annual entity, raising more than $50,000 over six years for CenterStage’s Acting Out – a professional theater group that brings children’s theater to local schools.
Latts was fortunate to see a lot of live theater as a child, and he wanted to make sure there was enough funding to give that same experience to all children.
Latts was unable to attend the show this year, but his mother, Kate Latts, emceed, along with WHAS’ Sara Klein Wagner.
(Latts was on his way to New Haven, Connecticut, to attend Yale’s Bulldog Days for admitted students. He’ll attend Yale this fall. A medical condition meant he couldn’t fly to Connecticut, so he had to travel by car during the show.)
The age-group winners won $300. Drew Ashley won the 6-12 age group with his song, “Let Me Be Your Star,” from “SMASH.” The band Shady Glen won the 13- to 18-year-old age group with their original song, “Song of the Dead.” Shady Glen includes Caden Taggart, Drew Goforth and Aidan Longmeyer.
Emmie Siegel and Mary Etscorn were the winners of the Jake Latts People’s Choice Award and $100. Audience members voted for their favorite act. They sang, “Breaking Free” from “High School Musical.”
The show included dance troupes, tumblers, pianists, singers, song-and-dance numbers, two ukulele players who sang songs, and even an Indian fusion dance. One 7-year-old did a dance and tumbling act. When one song-and-dance group had technical issues with their music, the audience clapped a beat for them so they could finish their act a cappella.
Kate Latts said she was pleased with this year’s competition.
“It was great,” she said after the show. “I really like this year because there was such a range of talent, and there were such bigger groups.
“It was really awesome seeing these ensembles performing, both the young kids and the older kids,” Kate Latts added. “We loved the bands and the dancers. It was really varied.”
She said the judges also help make the show a success. “We try and make sure we have judges in different disciplines,” she said. “It’s interesting how they’ll defer to one another when it’s not their area of expertise.”
This year’s judges were: Teddy Abrams, music director for the Louisville Orchestra; Emily Albrink, opera singer and music faculty at University of Louisville; Gail Benedict, retired musical theater director at Youth Performing Arts School and choreographer; Robert Curran, artistic and executive director at Louisville Ballet; and Beth Craig Hall, Actor’s Center for Training and the Helen Wells Agency.
The competition was at the Ursuline Arts Center at Sacred Heart Academy because the J’s theater can’t accommodate the large audiences composed of mostly friends and families of performers. Last year, the show moved to the Clifton Center at the last minute when tickets sold out. This year, the change of venue was planned early, helping the event sell 400 tickets.
The money helps fund Acting Out by paying for the actors, costumes, sets, transportation and all other expenses involved with a traveling show, Jump said. Louisville’s Got Talent is a joint effort between CenterStage’s Mainstage and its educational programs and is the biggest fundraiser of the year for Acting Out.

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