Night to Shine shone on, brighter than ever, Tuesday night, when 22 acts took to the Helena Civic Center stage for this year’s 20th anniversary show.
Elegant evening gowns in silk, satin and sequins, glittering chandeliers, red velvet curtains and tuxedos set the tone for this year’s Red Carpet theme.
An enthusiastic, capacity crowd filled the Civic Center to the rafters, with just a handful of tickets remaining a few minutes before show time.
Taking a bow was special guest Gene Bowen, who had the vision to found Night to Shine 20 years ago when he was CEO of Helena Community Credit Union.
And, as usual, the kids did not disappoint.
Talent abounded, with acts offering something for every taste — from an original country western song; to kinetic Irish dance; to a virtuoso classical violin duet; as well as hip-hop break dancing; an electronic/frenetic Melbourne Shuffle and a jazz combo.
Among the night’s many stunning acts was a knockout a capella version of the indie rock group fun.’s “Some Nights.” Its catchy hip-hop, driving rhythms and sweet, close harmonies were performed by Coral Schultz, Gus Chancy, Logan Colegrove, Maddie Cormier, Emily Eicholtz, Connor McSweeney, Abe Phillips and Kaitlynn Skoog.
The Capital High School octet came together at the urging of choir director Darcy Schulz, who practices with them every Sunday night at the school.
McSweeney said he chose the piece because it was “just such an uplifting song.
“We all have doubts about what we’re doing,” he said. “If you can feel good about it, you’ll get through it. It’s about staying positive.”
Singer-songwriter Mariah Saltzman, a Broadwater High School junior, accompanied herself on electric guitar as she sang her original country western song, “Sometimes It’s Not Okay.”
She wrote it for her best friend Sadie Wyse, whose mother died in August.
It’s about standing by her friend, whenever she needs someone to help her keep going on.
“It took me longer to write this song than any other song I wrote,” Saltzman said backstage. “It’s just that I love her and her family.”
Livening up this year’s show was a quartet of parkour gymnasts called Redefining Reality – Jake Ramirez, Jagger McDonald, Alex Warmoth and Sam Roddewig. “It’s Time to Get Real” showcased their lightning quick vaulting, flips and somersaults as they dove through the air onto and off of platforms and a miniature trampoline.
Closing out the evening was a Helena High School jazz combo, performing a dynamic, original jazz fusion composition, “Vers Libre.” Tenor saxophonist and composer Elijah Wynn was joined by fellow students Jasmine Sewell on soprano sax, Cal Treadway, piano; and Jordan Barrows, drums.
The inspiration, said Wynn, is art.
The work interweaves two musical themes — a bossa of complicated and beautiful chords representing the artist and his art, he said, and a second schizophrenic and angry theme of how art is perceived in our culture.
“It’s amazing,” said NTS director Manny Lopez, of this year’s array of talent.
“The real jewel is the kids,” which is why he’s been returning as director since 2001. “I was blown away at how much talent is in this town.
“These high school kids might as well be on Broadway – we’re trying to make it have that kind of feel this year,” he said, referring to the red carpet theme.
“The quality keeps getting higher and higher, said Lopez. “I’m glad there’s a venue like this. Most towns don’t have a show like this.”