2014-08-21 / News

Talent show celebrates silver anniversary

By Ken Shane

The Jamestown Community Chorus will present its 25th annual talent show Thursday night at the recreation center, and Director B.J. Whitehouse hopes that the silver anniversary will be bigger and better than ever.

“This is one of our biggest fundraisers,” he said, “so we hope that a lot of people will come. It’s the cheapest entertainment you’re going to find.”

Whitehouse anticipates that there will be nearly 300 people in attendance for the show, which he describes as the “perfect evening for families.”

“It’s an eclectic evening of different types of performances,” he said.

Auditions were held on Monday and Tuesday, and one of the first people to try out was David Fuquea, a third generation Jamestowner. A retired colonel, he spent 30 years as an active duty officer in the Marine Corps. Fuquea, who is married with two children, now teaches at the Naval War College in Newport.

Fuquea chose to perform a stirring a cappella version of “Momma Look Sharp” from the musical “1776.” He has sung the song with a choir, but this was his first solo attempt.

“It’s always had an emotional impact on me,” he said. “I think it’s amplified by my career in the Marine Corps. I try to connect the narrative to modern day using history to influence a focus on our military and the sacrifices they made.”

Fuquea says he was trying to capture the essence of how emotional it is to serve and lose someone, whether it is a uniformed compatriot or the family of a fallen soldier.

Max Hubbard is a 15-year-old ventriloquist from Jamestown. He works with a puppet named “R.K. the Possum,” and Max has been practicing his trade for seven years. He’s appeared in past talent shows with different characters: “Lucky the Dog” and “Paul,” who is a Muppet.

Handling the emcee duties for the third consecutive year will be Wakefield resident Mark Male. When he is not hosting the talent show, Male is the executive vice president of the Independent Insurance Agents of Rhode Island. During the auditions Male was gathering info about each performer, which will help him personalize his introductions.

“My job is to put the crowd at ease, try to get them engaged with each of the acts,” he said.

Male will not do any singing at the talent show, however. “They’ve asked me not to sing,” he joked. “There’s a restraining order.”

Retired judge Frank Darigan hosted the talent show for 15 years before handing the job to his sonin law. He introduced Male to the chorus.

“He’s been a great addition,” said Darigan, who still sings in the chorus. “He’s a great guy. I’m here for moral support.”

Cynthia Flagg has lived in the North End for 37 years. She has been a member of the chorus on and off for more than 20 years, but has never performed at the talent show. She’s never even attended one.

Flagg sang Stephen Sondheim’s “Send in the Clowns” from the musical “A Little Night Music.”

“It suits me,” she said.

Another Jamestown resident, Kathy Merrill, is a recent addition to the chorus. She joined last year and is now a board member. Like Flagg, she’s never attended the talent show.

“I thought it sounded like fun,” Merrill said. “It was trying to get other people to do it, and I thought if I’m going to press other people, I’d better do it.”

Merrill has played the violin since she was in the fourth grade. For her audition she played the Hoagy Carmichael standard “The Nearness of You,” along with longtime accompanist Janet Grant on piano.

“I love the chords that the piano plays,” Merrill said. “It’s just a touching song for me.”

Grant has been with the chorus for 25 years, and has been accompanying performers at the talent show for as long as there has been one.

“The talent show is always fun,” Grant said. “You never know what kind of acts there are going to be. There’s a huge variety, and there are usually some really good people.”

Casey Egan, 12, has been juggling for four years and has appeared in the talent show on three previous occasions. Instead of regular balls, Casey uses large, colorful hacky sacks because they provide better visibility for the audience. He also employs rings in his act, and balances on a soccer ball while he’s juggling. Casey said it takes a long time to learn any one trick, and he’s been working on adding a unicycle to his repertoire.

Chorus President Jessica Wilson has been with the chorus since 2006, and has been president for three months. She will also be a performer this year. Wilson will sing “See the USA in your Chevrolet,” a song made famous by Dinah Shore.

“In 1963 my family bought a brand new Chevy II,” Wilson said. “In the car was the sheet music for the song and I learned it. So I’ve known it ever since.”

Wilson said that the talent show is a wonderful event.

“It’s a safe place to perform,” she said. “We have children perform. We’ve had 80-year-olds perform. Everybody in the audience is really great to the performers. It’s the community giving people an opportunity to show what they can do in a nurturing kind of way.”

The talent show starts at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 21. Tickets will be available at the door for $7; seniors and students pay $5. There will be a raffle with three pre-paid Visa cards in different denominations as prizes.

The chorus was founded in 1949 by Rita Murray. Since then more than 400 people have sung under four directors.

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