Oooh, the talent!
It lit the Helena Civic Center stage Tuesday night for the 17th annual Night to Shine.
For some, it was their first time in the Night to Shine spotlight.
For others, their sights are set on bigger stages to come.
It was a festive night, with emcees dressed in feathers, glitter, brilliant colors and Mardi Gras beads — in honor of this year’s event landing on Fat Tuesday.
The show opened with pizzazz as Sarah Yeakel, a Helena High School senior and Night to Shine veteran, belted out the Barbara Streisand classic “Don’t Rain on My Parade.”
“It so represents what I believe. It’s so totally me,” she said in an interview before the show.
“I want to go into musical theater. It (the song) empowers me. It represents my mindset. It’s a powerful song.”
Her favorite lyrics: “I’m going to live and live now. Get what I want and I know how.”
She added, “I think (they are) good words to live by.”
Another Night to Shine veteran Mitchell Peery, a Capital High School senior, sang Michael Bublé’s “Everything.”
For three years Peery’s done duets, but this year he was ready to solo and showcase his talents.
“There’s so much power behind what he’s saying,” said Peery about the love song. “The key changes just explode with power and passion. I just really like it.”
And he loves the song’s message: “Whatever comes our way, we’ll see it through.”
Melissa Shaw, 17, a home-school student, performed a stunning version of “A Change in Me” from “Beauty and the Beast.” Although this was her first Night to Shine, she’s a veteran singer who’s been competing for years.
She’s not sure what she wants to do with music.
“People tell me I have a very influential voice.” she said. “I just want to reach people.”
Other powerhouse vocalists were Jessie Klein, singing an angelic “Ave Maria,” and Allison Ray with a soaring “Quando m’en vo.”
Not only were there beautiful voices, but some rapturous and passionate instrumentals also, such as pianists Stephanie Quist, a Capital High School junior, playing Beethoven’s “Sonata Pathetique (Op.13) Movement III Rondo, and Mike Zarling, a Helena High School junior, playing Scriabin’s Etude in C Sharp Minor Op. 42, No. 5.
There were delightful dancers, as well – from a belly dancer, to break dancers, to contemporary, to tap, to Irish, but also traditional Philippine folk dancing (Tinikling) and a troupe of zombies performing Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.”
Maryknell Dwyer, 17, of Capital High School, dressed in a festive red and white dress, chose to perform the Philippine folk dance because “it’s part of my culture.” Her mother is from the Philippines.
Someday Dwyer would like to teach either Irish or Philippine dance, she said, but her main goal is to teach elementary students.
She sees value in Night to Shine for those who don’t necessarily want a future on the stage.
“Night to Shine is an experience like no other,” she said, “where students can come together and create an act to perform before an audience. There’s no other experience like it in Helena. It teaches you showmanship.”
Oh, but let’s not forget the comedians.
Seven Capital High School seniors had the audience roaring as they performed the “Men in Tights” dance from the movie, “Robin Hood: Men in Tights.”
“This is all our first year doing Night to Shine,” said tights leader Jason Wardell. They thought up the idea one day in chemistry class.
“We thought it would be fun if we could get everyone to laugh – and for us to look ridiculous in tights. It’s been so much fun to do,” he said.
As to the future of tights-wearing, “They’re really uncomfortable,” Wardell admits.
Night to Shine Director Manny Lopez has orchestrated the show for the past decade.
“The talent is always there,” he said.
“I like it when I see freshmen return. And then the following year — wow, what an improvement. They’re even more talented. It’s fun to see the kids grow on stage, even the ones who aren’t ending up in theater or performing. They don’t have to go on to Broadway. It’s a confidence builder. ”
Night to Shine is a joint project of the Distributive Education Clubs of America (DECA) students at Helena and Capital high schools and is sponsored by Helena Community Credit Union.