Musicians, comedians compete in Connecticut’s Got Talent
NORWALK — Twelve-year-old Lexi McCall, of New Canaan, sat quietly in the newly renovated Wall Street Theater, running through her upcoming performance in her mind. Around her, other musicians and comedians who had traveled to Norwalk from around the state dealt with nerves in their own ways. Friday evening was the second of three public auditions for the first-ever Connecticut’s Got Talent competition.
More than 200 people had arrived to watch the auditions, and the judges — Dennis Collins, a studio artist in Stamford who has worked with Beyonce and David Bowie; Beecher, an award-winning comedian who has appeared on HBO’s “Vinyl” and “The Get Down” on Netflix; state Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff and Wall Street Theater President Suzanne Cahill — mingled with the crowd before taking their seats. On the table for the winner were $1,000 and a marquee performance at theater.
McCall, who auditioned last year in New York for “America’s Got Talent,” was excited by the new statewide version of the competition.
“I think it’s really great for people to be able to stay in the state,” she said. “You feel more close to your community.” She hoped one of the judges would pick her to move on to the final round.
For Frank Murgalo, of Norwalk, 76, the chance to perform was already a win. After a bout with encephalitis, which forced him to leave his job in the financial sector, his doctor recommended he find a hobby that would challenge his memory. “So I got into comedy at the ripe age of 73,” he said.
“I’m not looking for fame. I’m here to have fun,” Murgalo said. “Comedy’s instant gratification.” He often travels for that gratification — he said he had just gotten back from a show at Mohegan Sun the night before.
In contrast, Khalil Williams, 21, said he had only performed at Norwalk High School and Norwalk
“I’ve been on a stage before, but nothing like this,” he said, anxiously looking out at the crowd.
His hope was the audience would be moved by his rapping. “I don’t need to win. Since 14, I’ve been trying to get people to hear my music and get out of Connecticut.”
The performances ranged from an original metal song (by The Atomic Unknown) to a country rendition of “No Diggity” (Cynthia Preston, of Danbury). A group of a dozen ukelele players from the Westport YMCA (The CUkes) drew smiles from the audience, while a bluegrass performance by a Bridgeport student (G Rockwell) brought people to a standing ovation. Murgalo toned down what, in his words, is normally a “filthy” bit of stand-up for the children in the audience, while a 9-year-old stand-up artist with a shock of purple hair (Bonham O’Marra, of Ridgefield) ripped into the judges and a forlorn comic (Caitlin Maurice, of West Hartford) cracked up the audience with her dry observations (“I’ve come to terms with the fact that my natural face is a cry for help”).
During the intermission, Bryan Marucci, a 21-year-old singer from Norwalk who had never performed on a stage, said his family had been shocked to hear his voice and his phone had already begun blowing up with messages. “I’m happy I took this step. I faced my fear,” he said.
“Just doing this makes me true to myself — that I can do something big,” said singer Claudia Yvette, who delivered a powerful rendition of Celine Dion’s classic “My Heart Will Go On.” “I just want people to hear me — and to make it in the music industry.”
Then the lights dimmed once more, and the performances resumed. Williams took the mic and started with a shoutout to Norwalk, before plunging into a rap he hoped would open
“Sometimes I feel like I’ve gotta leave,” he began.
As he rapped, two girls excitedly conferred and pulled out their phones to vote for their favorite performance. “That was incredible,” Cahill said.
Williams flashed a broad smile.
Williams was the audience-choice winner from the second audition, and Lexi McCall, Cynthia Preston, Bonham O’Marra, CUkes, Bella Bardos and the Lionfish were also selected to move on the the final round. TJ Salta, Gilbert, Trinity, Julia Jewel, Glenn Roth, A Completely Different Note of UConn, Emily Joyce, Kerrin Massey and Jayce & Samuel won the first audition.
The final audition will take place from 7 to 9:30 p.m. Feb. 23, and five spots remain for those who have not yet signed up at wallstreettheater.com/cgt/.
The winners of the audition will compete in a final round from 8 to 10 p.m. March 2. First prize receives $1,000 and a headline spot for a show at the Wall Street Theater, second prize receives $500 and a second billing spot, and third prize receives $250 and a third billing spot.