Magicians, comics, singers, dancers, viruses…Morristown Onstage tryouts have it all

Zion Pearson, 10, of the Calvary Baptist Youth Choir, sings 'Rise Up' at audition for Morristown Onstage 2020. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
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More than 50 acts streamed across the Morristown High School stage on Saturday, hoping to win a night in the spotlight at the Mayo Performing Arts Center in February.

There were magicians and marimba players. Comedians and crooners. Dancers and ukulelians. In the best show-must-go-on tradition, some of them fought through colds that have replaced fruitcakes as the most re-gifted items of the holiday season.

NEW TEAM: Chrissie Wetherbee, the new executive director of the Morris Educational Foundation, and Melanie Smith, new chairperson, of Morristown Onstage, Dec. 14, 2019. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

“Some of our best auditions today were by people who were under the weather,” said Chrissie Wetherbee, the new executive director of the Morris Educational Foundation, which has the unenviable task of choosing 16 finalists for the 13th annual Morristown Onstage competition.

“It’s going to be a hard decision,” said Wetherbee (Morristown High ’94). She succeeds Executive Director Debbie Sontupe (MHS ’89), who will focus her efforts on fundraising for the nonprofit.

“Today’s acts were good,” covering a more diverse range of arts than the 2019 roster, said Morristown Onstage Chairperson Melanie Smith.

Morristown Onstage 2019 LogoFinalists will vie for up to $1,000 in prize money, before 1,300 cheering friends and family at MPAC on Feb. 26, 2020.

Morristown Onstage is open to anyone who lives, works or studies in Morristown, Morris Township or Morris Plains–towns served by the Morris School District.

Morris Educational Foundation members rate auditions for Morristown Onstage 2020. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

Judges will bestow prizes to the top performers over- and under age 18. An audience favorite will be crowned, too.

Finalists will be announced within a few days.

“I think I did fine. I was a little bit shy,” said 11-year-old Steven Marco Ricciardelli after singing Titanium, by the Australian artist Sia.

Steven Marco Ricciardelli, 11, sings ‘Titanium’ at audition for Morristown Onstage 2020. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

Solo gigs are something new for the 5th grader, who is used to performing with the Broadway Youth Ensemble. This was his second year trying out for Morristown Onstage.  He’s doing it for experience, Steven said, “to build up my confidence and not be shy anymore.”

Morristown Beard freshman Maya Bhide dreams of competing on America’s Got Talent.  “This is a bit smaller. But I thought it would be fun to try,” she said, after singing Tori Kelly’s hit, Sorry Would Go a Long Way.

Morristown Beard freshman Maya Bhide sings ‘Sorry Would Go a Long Way’ at audition for Morristown Onstage 2020. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

If she wins, she plans to donate some of the money to a cancer center.

Tryouts favor the nimble.

Zion Pearson, a Thomas Jefferson 5th grader who sings in the Calvary Baptist Youth Choir, put his heart and soul into Audra Day’s inspirational Rise Up — only to be told that the song was a winner at Morristown Onstage 2019.  So he scurried off to a side room to pull together another number.

Val Scarinci also had to be quick on her feet — she gave two auditions, and one of them was an interpretive dance routine. (Her other audition was a vocal rendition of If I Ain’t Got You by Alicia Keys.)

Val Scarinci, a chemical engineer from Morristown, auditioned as a dancer and singer for Morristown Onstage 2020. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

“I always loved performing, and always wanted to get back into it,” said Scarinci, a 25-year-old chemical engineer and part-time dance instructor.

Regardless of who makes the final cut, the biggest winner every year is the Morris School District. Morristown Onstage raised a record $175,000 for district programs in 2019.

And that’s nothing to sneeze at.

MORE ABOUT MORRISTOWN ONSTAGE 2020

Ali Gogarty, a finalist five years ago, auditions for Morristown Onstage 2020. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Mark Dutton, founder of the Morristown Uke Jam, sang an original song at audition for Morristown Onstage 2020. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
The trio 3X Hope–7th graders Emily, Suhawani and Sara of Morris Plains–sing ‘Never Again’ at audition for Morristown Onstage 2020. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Jag Sace, a 2019 finalist who won the Rossoff Rising Star Award, auditions for Morristown Onstage 2020. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

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