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Hoosier Star adult division takes center stage

September 3, 2018

La PORTE — The La Porte Civic Auditorium may not have a retractable roof, but on Saturday the stars will be in sight – shining bright on center stage.

The Hoosier Star cream of the crop may just be the adult division, where contestants ranging from up and comers to vocal chord veterans to harmonizing siblings will battle by pitch, key and melody to win the favor of audiences and judges alike.

Laurel Blankenship, 19, of La Porte, has been on this stage before, performing in the Hoosier Star youth division in 2016.

“It’s an experience like no other to be able to sing in front of such a talented group of musicians and the feeling of the crowd cheering you on through it all,” Blankenship said.

With a history of singing stretching back to her very first birthday party, Blankenship has been a performer for as long as she can remember. To Blankenship, singing and performing opens the door to unveil who she truly is.

“When I take on a character, I get to explore their emotions and I find myself in them,” she said.

Blankenship will be performing “I Dreamed a Dream” from Les Misèrables, a song she feels is packed full of emotion she can relate to.

“This song is a very heartbreaking song, I’m hoping to tell the story enough to make the audience feel heartbreak too,” she said.

Another returning performer in this year’s competition is Mike Green, who also competed in Hoosier Star 2016.

Green is a La Porte native and graduate from the Valparaiso University Theatre Arts program. He’s been an active performing in the area singing both solo and in bands at events such as Arts in the Park and at Masses through St. Stanislaus in Michigan City.

Bob Penney, 46, of Valparaiso, has never performed in Hoosier Star before, but he’s tried. Having auditioned twice in the past, Penney is looking forward to finally having his opportunity to sing with the might of the La Porte County Symphony Orchestra behind him.

“I have always had a love of singing and music,” Penney said. “For a while, I studied to pursue a career in opera, but now work as a lawyer in La Porte. Music is still an important part of my life.”

Penney’s musical history unsurprisingly began in his childhood, when a nun and choir director at his church overheard him singing and convinced his parents to sign him up for piano lessons. Penney recalls singing as a boy soprano soloist at the bishop’s ordination in Lafayette.

On Saturday, Penney will showcase his opera house background by performing “Music of the Night” from the Phantom of the Opera.

“I first sang it for a high school talent show. My dad made me a phantom mask and rented a cape. I saw the show in Chicago shortly afterwards, and the phantom has been one of my dream roles ever since,” he said.

Penney said he hopes to accurately portray the beauty and power of the music during his rendition.

Abby Bradley, once from Plymouth but currently staying at Worthy Women Recovery Home in La Porte, has overcome not only addiction but stage fright on her journey from jail to stage.

Bradley spent years locked up for using drugs, but said she has now found God and realized she is meant for something more than running the streets. Realizing her talent of singing and playing guitar and piano are gifts, Bradley has worked to overcome stage fright she’s carried since high school.

Bradley thanks her adopted parents, Vern and Etha Bradley; her two sisters and her Worthy Women Recovery Home family for helping her on her journey to find the courage to share her gift with the world and for helping her realize her worth.

Julia Obendorf, 30, and Rachel Lenker, 24, have one crucial edge none of the other contestants have: Backup.

The sole duet performers in both the youth and adult competitions, the sisters from Middlebury are looking to harmonize their way into the audience and judges’ hearts.

Obendorf and Lenker have been singing since their early years, but said due to the age difference had never gotten a chance to sing together until they were teenagers.

“Our earliest memories of singing both took place at the nursing home our grandmother worked at. She would set us on top of the upright piano they had and play as we sang,” the sisters recalled.

To the sisters, singing and playing music is a soulful way of expressing themselves.

“Where words are often lost, Music is found — be it in pain, sadness, happiness, anger or joy. It’s therapeutic no matter what,” they said.

First time Hoosier Star contestants, the sisters look forward to being able to perform with the orchestra and will be taking advantage of the opportunity by singing “Never Enough” from The Greatest Showman.

“You know that feeling when you have your first bite of ice cream of the summer? Yes, we want you to feel THAT,” the sisters said of their performance on Saturday.

Whether the sisters’ double threat will be enough to overcome the others will be up to the judges and audiences who, ultimately, will crown the 2018 Hoosier Star.

For more information and to buy tickets, visit hoosierstar.com

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