f REVIEW I
First, let me stress that this article is no
more than my personal opinion. You are
cordially invited to disagree with me.
The Private Cellar's StarSearch ended
Sunday night with the five weekly finalists
competing against each other. The evening's music was quite varied, with Mary
Baldree singing "Crazy" and "Please
Release Me," Heather Raye singing "The
Metro" and "The Words Get In The Way,"
Sammy Loehr singing "Mr. Bojangles"
(providing his own guitar accompaniment)
and "Does Ft. Worth Ever Cross Your
Mind?" Leo Lerma singing "Home" (from
"The Wiz") and "And I Am Telling You"
(from "Dreamgirls") and Jeff Caseltine
singing "Careless Whisper" and "Still."
We enjoyed five reasonably solid performances—two of them were actually
outstanding. First runner-up Sammy
Loehr gave a sensitive performance that
made the room sit up, shut up, and pay
attention; it was quiet enough to hear a
pin drop. I would have scored him the
winner. The winner, Jeff Caseltine, is a
handsome, young blond with a pleasant
voice, but his performance was, on the
whole, dull. On my score card, he would
have tied for second place with Heather
Raye, who showed a capable, flexible
voice and a confident presentation style.
But I wasn't judging, so my personal
scoring doesn't matter.
Guest artists included Dave Weston,
the Cellar's Thursday/Friday happy hour
entertainer, Alvin Grant, Movin' Melvin,
Freddie Alexander and K.T. Taylor. Let's
just say the guest entertainment had its
highs and lows. Emcee Rowland Hunter
also performed, and performed well.
In my first article (a few weeks ago), I
talked about the fact that little of Austin's
gay community seems to participate in
local theatre. This was evident in all six
preliminary weeks as well as the finals. It's
amazing what a little stage experience,
whether dramatic or comedic, can do for a
For example, Leo Lerma has a good
deal of stage experience. He placed the
microphone on a stand, stood behind it
and let his body, arms and face work for
his performance without taking a step.
Dancing up a storm while producing a
solid, consistent note is easy, if the
note is recorded and the performer is
lip-synching. Throwing your head
back on a high note looks good on
video but will make the note impossible to hit and sustain live.
Jeff Caseltine gave me the impression of
aimless wandering, possibly from fear of
standing in one place for four minutes on
stage, a common fear of young, inexperienced performers. Stage movement, any
movement, must look planned. You
need a reason to move, and a reason for
moving to a specific place.
I didn't see that kind of thought and
planning in most of the performers over
the seven-week period. It's not difficult to
learn, but it's difficult lo think of for your-
LIVE PERFORMANCE ... ALIVE AND
WELL IN AUSTIN
self with no stage training or experience.
Random movement makes a performance
look busy, but only sensitively, thoughtfully planned and rehearsed movement
makes a performance dynamic and gets
applause before the last note ends.
What does matter about the last two
months of live performance is that support and response to StarSearch has
been so good that it is being continued,
good news for both the gay bars and the
gay community in Austin.
In summarizing the last two months of
shows at the Private Celler, some very
good things have happened:
• A number of very talented performers
have emerged, like Heather Raye,
Alvin Grant, Mary Baldree, Sammy
Loehr, Rowland Hunter and others.
■ Local audiences who rarely attend live
performances have been exposed to
no less than nine such performances
in a two-month period.
• Singers who have been watching
MTV and other video outlets have
learned a good deal about what is
physically possible and impossible
when delivering a live performance.
• We discovered K.T. Taylor, a rock and
gospel singer of great dramatic power
and one of the best, most dynamic
new performers I've seen. His two
"guest" spots on finals night were the
For these and other reasons, many
many thanks to the Private Celler; to Ray,
George and Frank; and to Rowland
Hunter, the driving and guiding force
To be perfectly honest, audiences for
live performance will also need help to refine their determination of what merits
applause. For example, the crowd cheers
for high notes like they were hard thing to
achieve, but a high note is no harder for a
tenor or a soprano than a low note is for a
1014B North Lamar Blvd.
(in Castle Hill Plaza)
Austin, Texas 78703
P.O. Box 50421
Austin. Texas 78763
Next week, the Peter Rooney show.
Rooney, a former Mr. Texas All-American,
is a handsome young man with a strong
voice and trained performance style. If
the whole show is up to Rooney's potential, it should be an exciting evening . . .
hopefully, the first of many more exciting
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1810 WHITNEY WAY
AUSTIN, TEXAS 78741