An almost full auditorium and bustling lobby full of busy Patriot Ambassadors meant that Thursday Night Live (TNL) would once again be a heavily attended event. The hard work of the staff, stage crew and Senior Planners allowed for a smooth, well-run show with limited flaws. An energetic audience made the atmosphere electrifying, full of chants, cheers and thunderous applause. TNL once again dominated an otherwise quiet Thursday night.
Judged by computer science teacher James Turner and English teachers Evva Starr and Kearney Blandamer, the competition had a complex grading system that based acts on categories such as originality, stage presence, etc. “It was thrilling to witness so many of our students’ hidden talents. It was excruciating to assign a score to the thrills and passions of our kids,” Blandamer said.
Hosted by seniors Shelly Bhanot and Alyssa Robinson, their on-stage antics were nothing short of cringe-inducingly engaging, with a blend of references to pop culture, corny puns and witty name play. The duo had clear chemistry, and ultimately kept the audience into the show even at its empty transitional moments.
Starting off the evening was sophomore Alli Arner with a medley of Portugal The Man’s ‘Feel It Still’ and Blackstreet/Chet Faker’s ‘No Diggity.’ Accompanied by the beatboxing stylings of senior Graham Bright, Arner’s acoustic guitar-ladened cover matched the flow of Bright’s percussion well, which made for a fantastic start to the show.
Up next were seniors Margot Bartol and Peri Ehudin. Bartol’s impeccable piano playing under Ehudin’s captivating and high vocals to Adele’s ‘Remedy’ left the audience in awe. The bond between the two was shown by the perfectly syncopated number.
Third was sophomore Aishlinn Kivlighn with her cover of Christina Aguilera’s ‘Something’s Got a Hold On Me.’ The doo-wop inspired song was accompanied by some doo-wop inspired movements from Kivlignh; she gave a powerful and confident performance that left the audience feeling nostalgic.
Senior Peter Hechler’s surprising cover of Shontelle’s ‘Impossible’ caught just about everybody off guard. Hechler artfully mimicked the high-pitched vocals, and had the audience clapping along with the beat. Along with impressive vocals, Hechler’s fearless stage presence made for an even better performance.
With her nearly-isolated vocals accompanied by ukulele, senior Amritha Sridhar was able to slow things down with her cover of U2/Jack White’s ‘Love is Blindness.’ The intimate performance silenced the audience, as Sridhar’s voice captured all the attention in the room. This made for an even more thunderous applause.
From the moment he was announced, senior Darius Dudley received a spine-tingling reaction from the crowd. With the crowd chanting his name, Dudley stunned the audience with his iconic Michael Jackson impersonation – glove included. His dances to a mash-up of MJ songs included some of Jackson’s most famous moves, including the moonwalk. Dudley received an ear-splicing reaction as he walked off stage.
While it’s no secret that Dudley was a tough act to follow, senior Rachifa Hainikoye did her absolute best to win over the crowd. With a courageous cover of Andrea Day’s ‘Rise Up,’ Hainikoye had the audience’s attention for her entire performance. Her confident stance on stage only helped her image as she passionately belted out the powerful track.
In a surprising change of direction, junior Cheryl Goodman chose Carrie Underwood’s ‘Before He Cheats,’ to cover, and it was a fantastic swing in atmosphere. The cover of this classic country song included a twangy backing track with fresh, new vocals on top. Goodman had the audience singing along, and received a great reaction as she walked off stage.
As the curtain opened for senior Yordanos Belayneh, it was evident that this would be like nothing we’d seen yet. Beyonce’s ‘Run the World’ came over the speakers, and the crowd was hooked. As Belayneh strutted to center stage in a black and gold chain themed bodysuit, she sang and danced as I can only describe as fearless. With a quick singing style similar to rap, she walked her way into the crowd, and had the people on their feet and singing along.
With the largest group of the night, sophomore Annie Tang and freshmen Joyce Yang, Rin Sohn, Eva Zhang and Ines Zheng mesmerized the audience with their synchronized dance to ‘Want You To Say’ by K-pop girl group Playback. With so much movement on stage, it was impossible to look away. The bubblegum music blended perfectly with the petite movements from the girls.
Opening up the second half, senior Spencer Tritto woke up the crowd with an electric drum solo. Tritto’s hard work and dedication to the craft was put on display, as he crashed and thrashed his way through an encapsulating performance. His performance earned him a second place
as he crashed and thrashed his way through an encapsulating performance. His performance earned him a second place victory in the competition. “It’s hard to describe how doing what you love for the people you love makes you feel with words. But it’s pretty freakin’ awesome,” Tritto said.
Following that rapid performance, senior Brian Nicholson slowed the tone down with his inspiring cover of Rihanna’s ‘Stay.’ Nicholson’s range must be heard to believe. Along with having the crowd singing along with him, he had people waving their phone flashlights back and forth, creating a sight to behold. His fiery vocal delivery had the audience dazed and on the edge of their seats.
As one of only three freshmen competing in TNL, freshman Jacob Kaplan-Davis had some stiff competition. Flawlessly, however, he performed Brahms’ ‘Rhapsody in G Minor,’ and the crowd loved it. As the only solo piano act of the night, it was evident that years of practice has been invested in his playing. The judges noticed too, as he earned a third place victory in competition. “Wootton talent show? Easy finesse,” Kaplan-Davis said.
Senior Radhika Khare and freshman Somya Jain led a cultural shift in the competition, dancing in sync to a popular Indian song. The duo’s chemistry was remarkable, and the smiles and looks of joy during the performance were a nice touch.
Kickin’ it old school was sophomore Bryan Lee with Dean Martin’s ‘You’re Nobody ‘Til Somebody Loves You.’ This performance was pure class, and even featured Lee in a classic black and white tuxedo. His subtle snaps to the rhythm was this perfect addition to this 1960s classic.
Up next was a heartbreaking medley, with seniors Katie Seibert and Vibha Sastri on vocals, and host Alyssa Robinson behind the piano. Seibert sang Ed Sheeran’s ‘Happier,’ while Sastri sang Sam Smith’s ‘Stay With Me.’ Seibert and Sastri went back and forth taking turns singing, until the two songs intertwined perfectly, with the piano suiting both songs wonderfully. The slow, eerie rendition made the performance both captivating and sad.
Sophomore June Chamberlain lightened up the mood with her intense dances accompanied by both illuminated wand and hoop. While her hoop malfunctioned and failed to illuminate before showtime, she was still able to pull of an incredible performance; one that would earn her a first place victory in the competition.
As she walked from the back of the stage to the front, it was evident that sophomore Ally Nalibotsky was channeling her inner Adele through her song ‘Skyfall.’ The powerful, dominant performance showcased Nalibotsky’s impressive vocal range, and made for an impressive performance. The dramatic backing track allowed her voice to shine through, leaving the audience impressed.
Freshman Jay Capitelli offered something no one else did: an original song. Through the unique sound of his distorted acoustic guitar, Capitelli captivated the audience with both impressive singing ability and mature lyrical content. It allowed him to show off his creativity and song writing ability, which was impressive and inspiring to say the least.
Closing out the night were seniors Rayyan ‘Rayman On The Beat’ El-Amine, Graham Bright and Nahshon Plummer. With El-Amine DJing, Bright and Plummer had the audience in awe from the second they began. Their impressive flow and chemistry had the audience hyped and into the music, along with their unmatchable energy and genuine enjoyment of their craft. They both made their ways into the audience to get up close and personal with their supporters.
This year’s TNL continued its streak of excellence. Look out for next year’s event, as it will be just as big and bold.