Minda Larsen Wins 2015 MetroStar

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2015 MetroStar Talent Challenge Crowns Winner

August 17, 2015

Photo: Maryann Lopinto
Photo: Maryann Lopinto

Minda Larsen eked out a MetroStar win last night, finishing on top of a strong and tightly matched Top Five line-up in a spellbinding contest finale at the Metropolitan Room.  To win the 8th annual MetroStar Talent Challenge, Larsen captivated the judges with her confessional and inspirational story of having competed in the contest three other times (unsuccessfully) and dramatically changing her attitude about her work this time around.  The attitude adjustment succeeded as Larsen soared in the finale, beating out the delightful everyman Thomas Dieter (1st runner-up) and gloriously-voiced Josephine Sanges (2nd runner up). The two other Top 5 finalists were Lisa Remick and April Leonhard.

When she was interviewed on stage by veteran broadcaster Bill Boggs in front of a rapt audience, Larsen explained that her catchword for the contest, “joy,” required her to “let go of judgement and not to worry about the results, and have fun.”  The benefits of this approach were tangible.

With all five finalists basking in the glow of appreciation from the audience, Barry Kleinbort, the contest’s mentor, who had worked with the singers throughout the contest, spoke off-stage, explaining why Larsen rose to the top: “She did everything the judges and I asked her to do. She was completely open and made incredible progress.

The 7-week competition, that challenges singers to raise their standards and push themselves artistically, got underway on July 6. “Ramblin’” Tom Gamblin, who was the contest’s courteous and sometimes acerbic host for the fifth time, kept the proceedings moving crisply and good-naturedly; MetroStar’s resident music director, the prodigiously talented Tracy Stark once again managed multiple styles and personalities with seemingly effortless charm.

In an unprecedented move The Metropolitan Room brought back Josephine Bianco, the 14-year-old wunderkind from Staten Island who was eliminated last week, to receive a Special Audience Award.

Bianco performed a song during the break while the final ballots were being counted, sparking another lusty ovation from the appreciative crowd.

  Also performing during the break was the 2014 MetroStar Kristoffer Lowe, who previewed his upcoming MetroStar-produced show that starts on Tuesday September 22 at 7pm.

MetroStar offers a career-boosting package of prizes and professional encouragements, including a Met Room-produced prime time engagement and, a six-camera demo that chronicles the odyssey of the winner from start to finish.

Guest judges for the night were the Singing Experience director Linda Amiel Burns, the producer and singer Randie Levine-Miller, Huffington Post scribe Steve Schonberg, and Kristoffer Lowe. The contest’s permanent judges this year were the singer and director Gretchen Reinhagen, Met Room talent booker Joseph Macchia, and Roy Sander, the chairman.

Since it began in 2008, MetroStar has launched and redefined the careers of several standouts in cabaret and jazz.  Past winners, in chronological order have included Anne Steele, Liz Lark Brown, T. Oliver Reid, Marissa Mulder, Billie Roe, Lauren Stanford and Kristoffer Lowe.