‘Menifee’s Got Talent' Prepares to Fill 500-Seat Theater Tonight

Leon Palaganas, 20, will perform a song tonight from his favorite Filipino YouTube artist, Gabe Bondoc.
It was only dress rehearsal for the 4th Annual "Menifee’s Got Talent" show Thursday night, and yet the energy coming from the stage was so palpable, it seemed like it was already opening night.

Even Peter Thorwarth, the show’s coordinator, became visibly moved after one of the performer’s dances.

"Did you see her?" he asked, his hand on his heart. "A dancer like her doesn’t deserve to perform on the floor of a community center."

Thorwarth is referring to the three previous talent shows held by Arts Council Menifee. Last year, they had to squeeze a large crowd into the Kay Ceniceros Center, which seats only about 150 people. Many of the audience members who arrived late had to stand.

This is why Thorwarth stepped up to coordinate tonight's talent show. He insisted on having it in Heritage High School’s state-of-the-art theater, which seats 500 people.

"I wanted to do it for the benefit of the performers and the audience," he said. "We want the performers to have a big stage experience, and we want the audience to see and hear the performers in this setting."

As an avid attendee of art shows in cities as far away as Pomona, San Diego and Indio, Thorwarth felt there was an insufficient opportunity for Menifee artists to show their skills. He hopes that holding the talent show in the Heritage High theater will change this.

Bill Zimmerman, a member of the council’s board of trustees, coordinated the last talent show. He’s seen how the audience has increased over the years and demands a more professional space.

"In this theater, there’s much better lighting, sound and acoustics," he said. "It gives us an opportunity to put on a better show."

Tonight’s talent show will include 23 acts. There will be singing, dancing, performances on the piano and saxophone, and even a rock band. Holly Jacks (above), a 23-year-old who hopes to build a career as a singer, will sing a country song tonight.

Another notable performer is 8-year-old Angelina Andreski, the youngest person in the show, who sounds way beyond her years when she plays the piano. Also performing will be Edie Schmoll, a classic piano player and artist who is as talented as ever, even at her age.

"Let’s just say she’s 78," said Thorwarth, who’s pleased to be able to showcase talents across a wide age range.

The show will also be culturally diverse and include a Spanish song performed by 19-year-old Delailah Huezo (left).

"Everyone told me I’d be really good at singing in Spanish, but it wasn’t my genre," said Huezo, who’s auditioned for American Idol and The Voice in the past.

When Huezo decided to try singing in her first language, her father was thrilled he could finally hear his daughter sing in Spanish. Now she performs in a local mariachi band called NuevoSol.

Although the talent show’s main focus is to showcase amateur acts, several of the performers are semi-professional or professional. One of the professional singers is Kat Sanders, a member of the arts council who may perform during the show if time permits. Sanders said they prefer to show non-paid artists who don’t usually perform on stage.

"We showcase people in the community who have talent," said Sanders, who will be hosting the show tonight alongside her husband, Steve. "We give them the opportunity to experience being in front of an audience."

Natasha Perry, a 20-year-old Mt. San Jacinto College student, said she is nervous about singing in front of a 500-member audience because she hasn’t performed in a while.

"Tonight she will sing "Think of Me,” a song from her favorite musical, "Phantom of the Opera." She said the song reminds her of past relationships in which she’s been forgotten.

"I’ve been with my current boyfriend for a year," she said. "I hope if anything happens, he’ll at least think of me."

Another MSJC student who will be performing is 20-year-old Leon Palaganas. He often sings and plays guitar at open mic nights and parties. He thinks being on stage is "kind of awkward" because you lose yourself in front of a mass of people.

"After you hit that first chord, you forget about being nervous," he said. "It’s like time stops, and you lose track until you finally finish and then you’re like, 'Oh yeah, there’s an audience watching me.' "

The arts council selected these performers and many more. A whopping 60 people showed up to audition last month for the talent show. Council members had to whittle that number down while making sure they had a balanced variety of acts.

Although the show isn't a competition, a panel of judges will make selections for outstanding vocalist, dancer, dance group and musician.

Performers they liked but couldn’t fit in will have the opportunity to perform at the council's 4th annual Arts Showcase at the Menifee Countryside Marketplace on May 17. The free event will take place from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., showcasing both visual and performing art.

Menifee’s Got Talent begins tonight at 7 p.m. Tickets can be purchased for $5 online at www.artscouncilmenifee.org, or at the door before the show.

Heritage High School is located at 26001 Briggs Road in Romoland. For more information, call the Menifee Arts Council at 951-301-3780.

The Menifee Arts Council is a nonprofit organization dedicated to bringing art to the city and showcasing local artists. It supports dance, music, film and literary, visual and theater arts. The council's ultimate goal is to bring a cultural and performing arts center to the city. Visit the ACM website to learn how to get involved.


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