Altoona’s Got Talent makes debut

Talent was on display and prizes were up for grabs at the first “Altoona’s Got Talent” competition Thursday evening.

The Altoona Community Theatre show crowned first-, second- and third-place winners in three-judged categories: dance, voice (adult) and voice (18 and under).

The first-place winners were: Keara Sweeney of Ebensburg, dance; Brittany Hipp of Bellwood, voice (adult); and Isaac McNulty of Altoona, voice (18 and under).

Second-place winners were: Brandon Wilbur, dance; Michael McClure, voice (adult); and Norah Cunningham, voice (18 and under).

Third-place winners: Mickie Smith, dance; Ashley Moore, voice (adult); and Joseph Caroff, voice (18 and under).

Winners in each category took home cash prizes of $200 for first place, $100 for second place; and $50 for third place.

The audience got to cast a vote, too, picking via text message winners for the People’s Choice Awards in each category.

The people chose: Brandon Wilbur of Altoona, dance; Michael McClure of Altoona, voice (adult); and Norah Cunningham, 10, of Hollidaysburg, voice (18 and under).

“I’m very shocked. There were so many amazing dancers, and out of all of them, I cannot believe that I won first place,” Sweeney said on stage after the event.

I am very happy and very excited to be the winner of Altoona’s Got Talent dance category,” Sweeney said.

Before the start of the show and before winning over the audience and judges with the song “I’ll Be,” McClure said, “I love being on stage. I’ve been in shows at the Mishler before. Music is a passion of mine. And when I heard that they were doing this talent showcase, it just seemed like the perfect fit.”

Wilbur, a crowd favorite along with sweet and exuberant Norah, who sang “Miss Cellophane,” got the crowd clapping and whooping to his light-hearted hip-hop dance.

“I love the energy,” he said after the show. “This is the reason why I came. … I love to perform, and now being in school and college, I don’t get a chance to perform in stuff much anymore. … But to me if I didn’t even win anything, just the audience chanting, I had friends and family

come, it was a winner already.”

About 82 people auditioned, and that number was narrowed down to 19 final competitors, said Steven C. Helsel, ACT’s Operations Manager.

“We just thought (the competition) would be a great way to showcase talent because we know there’s a lot of great talent. It’s also being used as a way to raise some funds for our current season that’s coming up. We had been talking about some different ideas within our marketing committee for possible projects, and we knew that there had been one done in State College, I think last year, and so we kind of took that idea and jumped with it,” he said.

Jonathan O’Harrow hosted the show, and guest judges were Michael Paul Makin and Ryan Beeken.

Helsel said ACT would like the talent competition to become a yearly event, and for it to include acts beyond dance and voice, for which they had gotten requests from those wanting to perform different talents.

“We’ve gone into it very quickly, and we’re going to see how it goes and then decide if it’s maybe something we want to do every year,” he said in an interview a few days before the show.