New London — Fourteen-year-old Sara Buscetto wowed a packed house at the Garde Arts Center with her rendition of Whitney Houston's "I Will Always Love You," and Deandra Knox performed a supple dance interpretation of "Colors of the Wind" from Disney's animated version of "Pocahontas." But attendees of the 2nd annual New London Youth Talent Show said the real winner Saturday night was the community.
"New London is finally moving away from one-sidedness. Younger people — people of color — feel part of the scene now," Beverly Herbert of Groton said. "It's a new feeling."
New London police officer and City Councilor Anthony Nolan, who helped organize the event that attracted more than 1,400 people to the sold-out State Street theater, said rehearsals leading up to the talent show created a bond among the performers, who came from at least half a dozen communities in the region. They were having so much fun, he said, they didn't want rehearsals to end.
But it was the support of the rambunctious crowd, spurred on by a red-shoed and bow-tied Nolan as well as co-host Curtis Goodwin, that made all the rehearsing worthwhile for the performers, who ranged in age from 10 to 25.
"They feel like superstars," Nolan said.
And some of them performed like future stars as well. During the first half of the show, which lasted more than two hours, Buscetto, daughter of former City Councilor Michael Buscetto III, received a standing ovation for her emotional version of the Whitney Houston classic, the same song that made "American Idol" judges stand up and take notice of Jessica Sanchez, one of the favorites to win this year's competition.
There was no competition in the New London version of "Idol," just plenty of laughs, nerves and beautiful dresses.
The 21 acts in the show ranged from the rock band Past 13 to Latin dancers from the Centro de la Comunidad Dance Crew to rap music by Javon Scully. But young singers such as Joseph Salcedo, Mykala Parker and Asada Craig almost stole the show with a confidence that belied their years.
"The youth of New London are amazing," Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio said.
"It's just an awesome thing for kids to know the whole community is out to support their dreams and their talent," Nolan said.