Sue Serio, the emcee for The Media Theatre's Delco Idol deservedly received the theatre's Arts Advocate Award during its annual Gala this past February. One of Philadelphia's most popular television news personalities (FOX-TV's "Good Day Philadelphia" weather anchor), she would--in an imagined dictionary created by viewers of that morning program and of Idol itself--be the definition of "comfort."
The calming personality she exudes in front of the camera and onstage is one of Delco Idol's finest ingredients. As the contestants and their supporters gather with anxiety and nerves--unable to predict the future--it's Serio's brand of inviting hospitality mingled with a mother's warmth that allows the entire event to feel relaxed, comforting, and somehow less a competition and more of a talent showcase. Kudos to Serio for her professionalism, her honest interest in each and every performer, and her support of the arts with its opportunities for youth.
She, and the audience, were aware that the semi-finals round was a more intense Delco Idol as 10 contestants were eliminated to bring the top 15 back for the finals on August 8. The song choices were the usual mixed bag of Broadway, pop, and country, albeit extremely ballad heavy.
After each contestant performed, Artistic Director Jesse Cline took the time to ask the singers questions or to give the audience insight as to their background, hopes for the future, or song choice. Anna Phillips, 16, of Lansdowne, wowed audiences in previous weeks with her theatrical selections, but decided to switch gears and accompany herself on the keyboard with a pop song entitled "Skinny Love," which she referred to as "indie." Cline asked her why she did the song and she stated, "I wanted to get out of my comfort zone and take a risk." Her choice, however, did not pay off as the judges did not score her high enough to move her into the finals.
Those eliminated are all talented with a unique spin on what it is they do, including Ms. Phillips.
Stephanie Brown, 19, who chose the song "Only Hope." Cline asked her why and she explained it was from her favorite film A Walk to Remember. A fine singer, but she did not move forward.
Ray Crozier, 16, of Garnet Valley, who was eliminated after performing "Santa Fe" from the current Broadway hit Newsies. Sarah Mills, 15, of Media did not make it through after singing another Broadway tune "I'm Not That Girl" from Wicked. Cline asked her why she liked the show to which she stated, "Because we all, at some time in our lives, are not the person we want to be but we must just continue moving on, just being ourselves." Her response received applause and an enthusiastic response from Cline.
Sofia Ryan, 15, of Havertown accompanied herself on guitar to the classic Fleetwood Mac hit "Landslide," but it was not enough to move her forward on a very competitive week. Jenna Sharples, 15, of Berwyn, performed the iconic "Summertime" from Porgy and Bess but did not hear her name called when the top 15 were announced.
Media's Olivia Stallings, 15, chose an extremely well known and inspirational anthem "The Greatest Love Of All." Performed well, the song leads one to hear Whitney Houston in the back of your mind no matter who sings it. With that comparison, Stallings did not make it to the finals.
Kylie Teller's sweet rendition of "Part of Your World" from The Little Mermaid was her final performance in Idol this summer, and Cara Toland's performance caused her dream to fold. (I did not catch the name of Cara's song and had never heard it before. It was not the same song she rehearsed prior to the week's contest.)
Jackie Verna, 17, of West Chester, has a fondness for pop songs and performs them with gusto. This week, however, her rendition of Christina Aguilera's "Bound to You" kept her out of the finals.
The Top 15 who are moving forward to the finals are: Rebecca Alexander, 19, and Jason Armstrong, 18, both of Newtown Square; Folsom's 21-year-old Brittany Marie Arnao; Kyleigh Bleacher, 15, of Ridley Park; Stacy DiCandilo, 14, of Springfield; West Chester's 17-year-old Caroline Fresh; Rosaleen Gallagher, 20, of Secane; Benn Tyler Iffrig, 17, of Springfield; Chris Infantino, 17, of Media; Carly Katz, 17, of Broomall; Maria Maslin, 18, of Broomall; Lindsay Ronaldson, 17, of Aston; Jackie Rooney, 14, of Springfield; Marie Sminkey, 14, of Middletown; and Exton's 23-year-old Anna Sunnergren.
The finals of Delco Idol 2012 are Wednesday, August 8, with the winner receiving $1,500 and gift certificates for local businesses and restaurants.
To vote for your favorite contestants, visit www.mediatheatre.org. Call 610-891-0100 for more information.