"Darien's Got Talent" was the name of the event, conceived and produced by the Darien Arts Center, OK, a fundraiser, but every nonprofit organization has to have fundraisers. And let me tell you, the title of the event was the right one, because Darien indeed has talent, and then some.
This was a competition, but of an eclectic nature. Anyone with something special to offer was encouraged to audition for a group of knowledgeable judges.
Out of close to 90 candidates, 18 were chosen for the finals which took place June 30 in front of an appreciative audience at Darien Town Hall. The show featured musical direction by the virtuostic, well-known area musician Chris Coogan, and stage-direction by Carole Claps.
Interestingly, there were supposed to be only 15 finalists, but the level of ability was so high that three more were added, and let me tell you, there were no losers on that stage, although there were three prizes to be given. It is small wonder that the judges on the finals panel took quite a while to make their decisions.
During this time Coogan entertained a packed house at the piano with jazz tunes.
The contestants ranged from fourth-grade hip-hop dancers to close to career-ready performers, including a rock band, a jazz duo, Irish step-dancers, singers, a pianist, stand-up comedy, instrumentalists, -- the mind boggles. Who could have known that all of this was right here in our very own town?
The show moved right along thanks to three special masters-of-ceremony: First Selectman Jayme Stevenson, Dr. Debi Boccanfuso and representing the excellent ABC program, Niya Wright. Let it be said once again, there wasn't a "bad" performance on that stage. Everyone was poised, well-prepared and ready to go, and the enthusiasm of the performers came right over the virtual "footlights."
All the judges, both preliminary and final, were the best, professionals to their fingertips, and, for that reason, those chosen should take their decisions very seriously indeed. They included John Doelp, senior VP A&R at Columbia Records; Barbara Goldsmith, ballet dancer, teacher and soloist with several international ballet companies, including the Metropolitan Opera Ballet; pianist Dorothy Kolinsky, noted teacher, coach and soloist with many symphony orchestras and chamber groups; the Tony-award winning producer Edwin Schloss; and Dan Micciche, a singer-pianist and conductor, whose credits include film and stage, including the Broadway companies of "Passion" and "Chicago," and its touring company of "Chicago. He has been musical director of more than a dozen musicals.
After an enjoyable, musical and suspenseful time, the decisions were announced. Third prize went to singer-guitarist composer Doug Allen, with his song, "Underground." Second place went to Teresa Du, who played Fredric Chopin's Nocturne in C-sharp minor. First prize went to pianist Christopher M. Jessup, who played his own composition, "Concerto in Three Keys." But again, there were no "losers," and the best news is that there will be another opportunity next year, another installment of "Darien's Got Talent."
Grateful thanks go to the tireless producers, organizers, preliminary judges and volunteers, and to Amy Allen, executive director of the Darien Arts Center. Roses and orchids to all of them.
Arden Anderson Broecking is a theater critic based in Fairfield County.