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America’s Got Talent makes Chicago stop this weekend
By Natasha Wasinski
The crowd on Saturday at the McCormick Place ranged from the cute – a tween in a pink-bowed hat singing “Tomorrow” like Annie – to the downright bizarre- namely, a zombie impersonator who reportedly carried with him a bag of fake body parts.
The possibility of winning $1 million inspired performers of all ages, sizes and skills to descend upon Chicago last weekend to audition for this year’s season of “America’s Got Talent.”
NBC’s hit talent show hits 12 U.S. cities to find the country’s most one-of-a-kind acts. Only New York City and New Orleans remain before the show packs up and heads to Los Angeles.
And the Windy City might be where wannabe performers find their lucky break: Chicago comedian Jacob Williams and teen pianist/vocalist Edon Pinchot of Skokie both made it to the contest’s semi-finals last season. Here are a few hopefuls who waited in line for a shot:
Auditioned: Ky Ngo, 6, of Lake View, Minn.
A Vietnamese drummer boy who has performed internationally is now vying for a spot in America’s top talent show.
Phong Ngo of Lake View, Minn., said his 6-year-old son Ky’s musical might is self-taught. He learned percussion at age 3 with the help of instructional DVDs and books. Today Ky plays the piano and guitar, but enjoys banging on drums the most.
“Give him 30 minutes and he can learn a song,” Ngo said. “He can play anything from around the world.”
Auditioned: Trainwreck Symphony of Chicago
Talent: Modern rock
Trainwreck Symphony is grappling with how to describe their style — is it R&B rock or heavy-metal soul? Either way, “we just want to rock the house,” said bassist Cisco Lopez, 30.
Lopez and band mates Javier “Kona” Villamil, 27, on vocals, Daniel Otero, 29, and Jeffrey Goldie, 29, on drums have been a staple of the Chicago rock scene for the past four years.
“It’s a struggle but it’s worth it,” Lopez said. “We’re brothers.”
Trainwreck Symphony now has their eyes set on the big stage with “America’s Got Talent,” where Villamil is introducing a new element to the band’s performance: tap dance.
Auditioned: William Methling, 29, of Chicago
William Methling waited six hours to show off his skills, but that didn’t faze the Holy Family English teacher. Methling has auditioned for “American Idol,” “The Voice” and “The X Factor,” so he knew the drill.
“After a while the nerves wear off,” he said.
Methling continues to audition because his students encourage him not to give up on his dream to sing.
Auditioned: The Remady of Chicago
The Remady’s America’s Got Talent audition two years ago sent the Chicago R&B group to the contest’s next round in Las Vegas, where they performed a capella.
Unfortunately, the journey stopped there.
Now with a number of performances under their belts, the soulful group – comprised of Perry Page, 23, Durell Jones, 24, and Roosevelt Lyons, 26 – is poised to give the contest another shot.
“We really didn’t want to give up,” Page said.
Auditioned: Payton Lakey, 18, of Dexter, Mich.
Talent: Vocals and acoustic guitar
Payton Lakey’s weekend audition trip was full of firsts, and among them: her first big city cab ride.
“I was so scared,” she admitted.
But her fear quickly gave way to excitement, as the high school senior was in town to croon a country tune and play the guitar in hopes of making of it big.
Singing is “all I do,” Lakey said. “It’s what I want to do with my life.”
Auditioned: Jackie Gander, 58, of Port Charlotte, FL
Jackie Gander was the lady in red at last year’s audition, and it was either the sequins or her singing that earned her a callback. But her work commitments forced her to drop out of the contest, thus delaying the 58-year-old’s aspiration to sing live.
Gander, originally of Chicago, traveled from Port Charlotte, Fla., over the weekend to try her chances a second time, this time in a blue gown.
“I had a really good reason to come home,” she said.
Auditioned: John Narum, 19, of Fargo, N.D.
John Narum wowed yo-yo pros when, at age 12, he became the youngest-ever champion at the World Yo-Yo Contest.
Now 19, he’s studying mechanical engineering at North Dakota State University in hopes of one day building a better yo-yo. He also wants to prove to America’s Got Talent judges that there’s more to the sport than “walking the dog.”
“It’s literally the only thing you can pull out of your pocket and impress somebody with,” Narum said. “It’s unique.”
Auditioned: Clark Jones, 30, and Will Miles, 29, both of Chicago
Will Miles lives on the North Side. Clark Jones is a South Sider. Other than that the longtime friends are one and the same: Cubs fans, teachers and funny men.
“We’re only missing one thing: the same parents,” Miles said.
So the two naturally teamed up under the name Twin Comedy for their America’s Got Talent audition Saturday in hopes of sharing their laughter with others.
“We’re already having a party,” Miles said. “We want to invite an audience.”
Natasha Wasinski is a local freelance writer. Find her on Twitter @natwaz.