By the start of the first annual Minneapolis teen talent show, called Mpls Tlnt Shw (because teenagers apparently don’t use vowels anymore in the Text Era), the upstairs theater of Hennepin Stages was standing-room only. At least Mayor R.T. Rybak, along with his wife and daughter, found seats.
I was seated just behind him, along with five other judges, ready to deliver Simon Cowell-esque feedback. Alas, we were simply asked to rank the performers on five criteria, from content to creativity to use of time. Yes, I had to downgrade a performer because she was in the loo when it was her turn to come on stage.
The highlights: Jerome Scott of the Near North neighborhood who performed, with utter concentration, a series of backflips and other gymnastics that would have snapped my back in half—literally I would have been two halves lying on the stage. Nelle Anderson and Jesse LaVercombre of the Southwest neighborhood executed a piano/singing medley (bookended by “Beat It”) that might have been precocious if it wasn’t also practically professional—these kids wouldn’t have looked out of place at a Dakota late-night.
Ultimately, the crowd-pleasers won out—a step-dance team from Calhoun Isles, a trio of spoken-word performers, and, the big winners, Longfellow’s Kiara July Machuca and Ismael Lbarra, who performed a traditional Mexican dance in which Lbarra wielded a pair of machetes, clapping them above his shoulders, above his head, etc. The pair simply performed beautifully. And as a showcase of the city’s diversity, which of course the show was, being a part of the MOSAIC festival, that’s hard to beat—while proving, once again, that we can’t resist shiny, flashing things.