Bucks Fever Talent Show Rocks the New Hope Winery

by Stewart Gross

Thursday, March 12, the Central Bucks Chamber of Commerce and its donors held the Bucks Fever Talent Show at the picturesque New Hope Winery 6106 Lower York Road.

There were eleven performers, down a few because of last second cancellations due to the coronavirus situation we are all dealing with.

The ages of the performers ranged from a 14-year-old Ukulele player and singer who wrote the only original song of the evening to 88-year-old cruise ship performer, Al Skaziak, who brags, “I never sang a note until I was 75!”

Al Skaziak opened the show belting-out a resounding version of Nat King Cole’s “Unforgettable” that brought the audience in attendance to their feet.

Thirteen years ago, Al’s wife convinced him that, “You always had a great voice”, and to enter a singing contest at the Philadelphia Marriott Downtown. 

Al won and never turned back.  His retirement turned into a singing career.  He has performed at Parx Casino in Bensalem, all of the Atlantic City Casino lounges, and he and the love of his wife who accompanies him to each and every show, are out to sea at least once a year, as Al sings on Norweigan, Royal Caribbean, and Carnival Cruise Lines.  “Life begins at 75” would be an understatement for singer Al Skaziak.

Ellie Halstrick next performed “Nothing” from Marvin Hamlisch’s play “A Chorus Line” complete with her the character, Diana’s speaking parts.

She was followed by Skylar Love who wrote the song and lyrics of the lone original song of the evening.  Skylar’s song “Your Ride Home” contained mature lyrics beyond her fourteen years.  The young Doylestown lady is home schooled and in the ninth grade.  She has played piano and guitar for four years now, and received her electric Ukule as a Christmas gift a little more than two months ago. 

According to Skylar, “It took me five minutes to write the song about two weeks ago. I already had the lyrics.  I’ve been writing lyrics, stories and poems ever since I could read and write.”

Skylar ended-up taking Honorable Mention at the end of the evening.  That is nothing compared with the career ahead of this amazing young talent, who may have the highest ceiling of anyone in the show…the sky.

Jeff Lyle Friedman next played and sang Elton John’s “Candle in the Wind” on piano. He was inspired to learn and play the song by the tremendous Elton John biopic from this past summer, Rocketman.  Friedman commented “I love Bernie Taupin’s lyrics about the tragic life of Marilyn Monroe.”

The next performer, Kristen Donnelly, who works with the Central Bucks Chamber of Commerce and Abby Research in Philadelphia, returned to the Bucks Fever talent show after winning Honorable Mention in last year’s contest.  She has a beautiful voice and sang “She Used to be Mine” from the show, Waitress.

The second half of the talent show kicked-off with high schooler, Lara Grant. 

Grant sang and played piano on Adele’s “When We Were Young.”  She has an amazing voice and is beginning to build a career for herself with her own homepages on Facebook and Instagram, and some of her performances posted on You Tube.

The following performer, Sasha Kleiner of Council Rock South, who has learned English as a second language to her native Russian, put herself in the character of Regina George from the Broadway musical version of Mean Girls, and sand a beautiful rendition of “Til’ Someone Gets Hurt.” Saha commented, “I love all musicals.  My all-time favorite is The Sound of Music.”

Following Kleiner, Jessica Morton, who attends the Bucks County Tech School for Nursing, sang a resounding version of “Dance with my Father” by Luther Vandross.  She is a big fan of the Mowtown sound and says, “Stevie Wonder and Lionel Richie are my favorite artists.”

The barber shop quartet, “One Steph Over the Line”, whose name is “a tribute to the famous Brewer and Shipley song and our musical director and quartet member Stephanie Brictson.”   Their harmonies were incredible in their performances of ‘Listen to the Rhythm of the Falling Rain” and “I Love You with all My Heart.”  The quartet are members of the Bucks County Gentleman’s Chorus.

Amanda Hewitt, who is working on her Master’s Degree at Penn State and works in property management, brought her own cheering section who were loud before and during her performance of “I Am What I Am” by Linda Eder.

No talent show is complete without an Elvis impersonator as the closer, and John Ekey, aka Elvis Pretzel, closed with “I Can’t Stop Loving You” complete with jumping off the stage and going table to table to perform up-close and personal for the audience in his gold costume. 

Ekey began his career as Elvis Pretzel 20-years-ago as an employee of Synder’s Pretzels, where he worked for twelve years, before his Elvis career got off the ground.  He entered a national contest at Synder’s to stimulate sales, where he finished second with his idea of having an Elvis impersonator promote the line of Hanover based pretzels. Elvis Pretzel performs at weddings, nursing homes and weddings with a booming voice and dressed as “The King.”

When it was all said and done, the panel of three judges awarded Amanda Hewitt, First Place, Sasha Kleiner, Second, Lara Grant, Third, and Honorable Mention to Skylar Love.

The panel of judges were Igori Bogatiriov, Galina Nemstov Wohl, Carly Manzen, and Todd Polichock, who at 56, is a newcomer to politics, serving as the 144th District’s State Representative.

The MC, from the Central Bucks Chamber of Commerce, was Brad Sanders, who once again assembled a very professional presentation, following the huge success of October’s Bucks Fever Film Fest.  His humor and stage presence as MC, and great organizing skills, help Bucks Fever to promote the arts throughout Bucks County.

PHOTO CAPS : 1. Al Skaziak performed “Unforgettable.”

2. Skylar Love Belisle, of Doylestown and fourth place winner, performed her own material.

3. John Ekey, aka Elvis Pretzel, closed the show.