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The Daily Tar Heel

Students Aim to Hit Big Time at 'Showtime'

Six weeks ago he was one of 260 who auditioned to perform at the Apollo Theater Amateur Night, and tonight he will take the Carmichael Auditorium stage alongside 12 other performers.

Only one will be victorious. The winner of this competition gets $1,000, round-trip tickets to New York and a performing spot at the Apollo Theater in Harlem.

Since 1934, the theater has been a haven for new talent. What makes Amateur Night unique is audience participation -- the crowd is free to cheer on performers or to boo them off the stage.

The theater is trying to gain nationwide support for Amateur Night, and the touring show is aimed at hitting arts-conscious areas of the country.

Jacqueline Dolly, an Apollo public relations and media representative, said North Carolina is an artistic melting pot.

"(The theater) thought it would be a good thing to take it out to the community where we are supported," she said. "North Carolina has a huge number of applicants every year."

Due to the level of interest, the initial auditions are key for weeding out acts. Vanessa Brown, the producer for the Apollo show, said she searches for a diverse range of performers and a variety of acts.

"After a while, you know what you're looking for," she said. "If you're a singer, you're going to have to be extraordinary. Every detail from how you present yourself to the smile on your face can make a difference."

Johnson, unlike many other performers, won't be singing this Friday -- he'll be doing what he calls hip-hop dancing. For him, it's a dream come true.

"I grew up watching the show on TV every week," he said. "I like performing. ... That's my love. When I found out about the auditions, I felt like this could possibly be my chance."

The show's legacy has grown since its origin. You never know -- a future superstar may be in our midst. As for Johnson, the experience is what really matters.

"Even if I get booed off the stage, it was worth it," he said.

The competition will be at 8 p.m. today in Carmichael Auditorium. Ticket prices are $25 for general public and $16 for students.

The Arts & Entertainment Editor can be reached at

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