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Seasoned talent adds flavor to show's tryouts

(ran SS edition of METRO & STATE)

A crowd watches as entertainers showcase their acts for the upcoming Senior Star Talent Show.

Wanda Hayes-Reddick had her eye on the front door.

Last year, 80 people signed up to try out for Time-Warner's annual Senior Star Talent Show. On Wednesday, only 15 people signed in for this year's tryout.

"I don't know what we did wrong," a distraught Hayes-Reddick said. "Maybe we didn't start advertising early enough."

But there was one woman who tried out last year that Hayes-Reddick hoped would not come through the door.

"Her name was Ava, and she was a former burlesque queen," Hayes-Reddick said. "When she finally stopped, she had stripped down to this cat suit and was scaring me to death.

"I'm telling you, the pacemakers were clicking in here that day."

Perhaps it was the possibility Ava might repeat her act that drew a crowd of spectators to this year's tryouts. Or maybe it was a chance to watch friends and neighbors show off. Whatever, the recreation room at Japanese Gardens mobile home park was filled throughout the day with an appreciative audience that tapped toes and sang along to familiar tunes from the past.

Even without Ava, there were tantalizing acts for the judges to review Wednesday. For instance, Krista Marie Di Bella, 60, a torch singer from New Port Richey, sang Gladys Knight's You're The Best Thing That Ever Happened To Me. Di Bella very nearly brought down the house.

"Girlfriend, you've got soul. You're one red-hot mama," Hayes-Reddick remarked after the performance.

And there was Joe Martin, 67, from Largo who sang, You're Special To Me, a song he wrote for his wife, Mildred. The two have been married 47 years.

"What a Valentine's Day treat," Hayes-Reddick said after the song. "I'll bet every woman in here has tears in her eyes."

Toni Snell, 65, and Virginia Sheare, 62, clogged to Music, Music, Music, a Teresa Brewer hit from the 1950s. Carol Van Hine, 60, strummed a banjo and sang If You Knew Suzie. A couple of stand-up comics entertained with strings of jokes, some of which are too risque for a newspaper read by schoolchildren.

Judges will choose 10 acts to perform at the talent show scheduled for April 5 at Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater. Two backup acts also will be picked.

Hayes-Reddick said because so few people turned out for Wednesday's tryouts, she might schedule a second session, which she will advertise profusely. Winners will be notified by mail, she said.

"I hope I make it," said Di Bella, who sometimes performs at Moose and Elks lodges in Pasco County. "It would be fun."

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