By GARY PULEO
Will you fly to Never Never Land with Tammy Tuckey, stand on your own with Molly McLane, or find yourself addicted to the sound of Aubrey DeMedio?
Fans will descend on the Norristown Arts Hill Festival Saturday, May 3 to hear the Montco Idol finalists sing their hearts out.
With talent evaluations by three judges — Norristown native and singer Alaina Nelson; Ron DiSilvestro of Forge Recording and Tom Jensen of Rotation Records — whittling the original crop of entries down to a manageable dozen, the fans’ votes took over from there, narrowing the elite pool down to three vocalists.
It’s now down to a diverse league of young females, all of whom made at least one judge’s top five list.
Two of the Second Annual Montco Idol contenders are intent on honing their skills to dazzle Broadway audiences one day, and one is following her classic rock heart.
But only one hopeful chanteuse will be crowned Montco Idol, through an additional round of voting following the Arts Hill concert, which ends May 6.
The winner will be announced May 9.
For those who can’t make it to the live performances, videos will be posted on the Montco Idol contest page for viewing.
Tammy Tuckey said she chose to sing “I’ll Try” — from the Peter Pan sequel “Return to Neverland” — for her Montco Idol audition because she can relate so deeply to the character Jane — daughter of Wendy — and her unwillingness to grow up too fast.
“It’s such a big transition for a teenager, especially at my age,” the energetic Tuckey said during a phone interview. “I’m now 18 and a legal adult and I feel like I didn’t have enough preparation for that,” she added, laughing. “I’ll be going to college and I’m just kind of confused myself: do I want to be grown up or do I want to stay a child? The song is saying, I’ll try to be what society wants me to be and grow up, but it’s not really staying true to yourself that way. In a way I don’t think anybody ever grows up. It’s a gorgeous song and it’s not just a ballad … and it’s not dreary boring. It starts out a little slow but it builds up with the emotion of the song. I enjoy all types of music — country, jazz — it just matters that the song tells a story,” Tuckey said. “And the song ‘I’ll Try’ really tells a story. All people have been through that stage, and I thought that would be a very relatable theme.”
Though the never-grow-up theme from Peter Pan resonates with the Hatboro Horsham High School senior, Tuckey is already a bit of a seasoned veteran, having recently appeared as the stepmother in her school’s production of Stephen Sondheim’s “Into the Woods.”
“I love musical theater and have been doing it for many years,” she said, recalling that friends had encouraged her to enter the Montco Idol competition.
“I thought there would be hundreds of people signing up and I didn’t really look at the prizes … I just decided I would just submit it,” added the girl who said she regards Montco Idol as more of a career opportunity than a contest.
“I’m just so proud of everybody that is in the competition. It’s a real honor to be in the group. I’m very excited to be involved in it.”
Earning a spot as one of the top three in a homegrown idol challenge may have been just the ticket for the singer, after having auditioned once for the behemoth that spawned it, TV’s “American Idol.”
“They just want a pop star who can sing and make money on those shows,” Tuckey said. “That is not my objective. I grew up listening to people like Judy Garland, Bing Crosby and Barbra Streisand. They all sang from the soul. I think a lot of pop stars nowadays just sing the song and don’t really mean what they sing.”
With that, the girl who was named after the Debbie Reynolds character in the 1957 movie “Tammy and the Bachelor,” broke into song.
“Tammy … Tammy … Tammy’s in love.”
With that impromptu rendition of Reynolds’ No. 1 hit, Tuckey allowed that, like the wide-eyed Tammy and the childlike Jane from “Peter Pan,” she would never try to be anyone she wasn’t.
“I don’t know what the judges are looking for. Do they want a pop star like Britney Spears or someone who is original? So I’m just going to perform as if I’m me. I’ve been doing that for so long and I don’t want to deter from what I am.”
Like Tuckey, musical theater devotee Molly McLane knows her way around the footlights.
The upcoming star of Mary, Mother of the Redeemer’s production of “Alice in Wonderland” had warbled the winsome “On My Own” from “Les Miserables” to judges’ and fans’ delight.
“I come from a pretty musical family,” said the MMR eighth grader, who has previously appeared in the lavish musicals “42nd Street” and Rodgers’ and Hammerstein’s “The Sound of Music” at St. Helena School.
Following the Montco Idol gig, audiences at McLane’s school in Montgomery Township will get to hear her knack for working a sister act routine, when she takes the stage with sibling Megan in a medley from the musical “Wicked,” a parallel tale to the “Wizard of Oz.”
Like many Montco Idol contestants, McLane was the beneficiary of a rigorous friends-and-family voting campaign.
“I tried to get as many people as I could to vote, but I guess I’m also relying on the judges’ opinions,” she said.
Once a musical theater aficionado herself, Aubrey DeMedio is now unleashing her vocal power in the world of classic rock, à la Ann Wilson and Robert Plant.
“In my younger years I did a lot of musical theater, and I still love that, but I find myself more in the pop rock (genre) now,” said the Spring-Ford Area High School freshman. Ironically, DeMedio said she wasn’t initially familiar with the tune that ultimately won her the fans’ and judges’ attention, “Addicted to You” by Avicii.
“My singing teacher brought it to me and said, ‘This is a tough song, but I think you need to learn it.’ I tried it and I loved it.”
Typically, DeMedio revels in interpreting the songs of Led Zeppelin and Heart, she said.
When DeMedio’s vocal prowess is available, her male friends that fire up the power trio The Floats happily ditch the trio sensibility to welcome a fourth female member singing lead. With their own website, thefloatsmusic.com, and several gigs at area venues like Honeybrook Golf Course’s Friday Night Music events, Steel City Coffee House and Chaplin’s Café under their belts, The Floats have been known to cover a Foo Fighters tune or two as they carve their renown on the local circuit.
As it happens, DeMedio is the only one of the three finalists who had entered Montco Idol last year.
“It’s awesome to have made the top three this time,” she said. “My mom called me in the middle of school and said, ‘You made it’ and I was so ecstatic for the rest of the day.”
Montco Idol judge Alaina Nelson unabashedly recalled her initial enthusiasm for DeMedio’s video performance: “I literally watched her audition video three times because I was so impressed. This girl is a star. I can’t wait to hear her rock out at finals.”
Nelson was also impressed by McLane’s “pretty voice … so unexpected from such a tiny person,” and Tuckey’s “great job. Definitely can hear the theater roots in this voice.”
For judge Tom Jensen of Rotation Records, the finalists surely earned their spots at the top and are equally matched, “which will make for a great final round,” he said. “Tammy Tuckey, Molly McLane and Aubrey DeMedio were in my top five choices, which indicates that all of our judges and outside voters have great ears, and also validates our professional judgments. Good luck to all three finalists.”
Follow Gary Puleo on Twitter @Mustangman48.