FutureStars Profile: Pioneer Senior Ella Manning Excited About ‘Insanely Cool’ Show

Read the original article with photos at weloveannarbor.com.

This is the second in a series of features on artists performing this weekend at Pioneer Theatre Guild’s FutureStars 2019 which returns for its 17th year at Pioneer High School’s Schreiber Auditorium.

Imagine more than 1,500 people packed into Pioneer High School’s Schreiber Auditorium, cheering wildly as you belt out a popular tune. And, no, you’re not a professional performer. You’re just a high school kid.

In the words of Pioneer senior Ella Manning, who has done it before and hopes to do it again, “It’s insanely cool.”

Manning and about 60 other high school students from throughout Ann Arbor will compete to get to the January 26 Finals of FutureStars2019, where talent comes together from a diverse group to sing pop songs in front of throngs of people.

It’s the 17th annual rendition of FutureStars, presented by the Pioneer Theatre Guild. It comprises two preliminary shows on Friday, Jan. 18; two more preliminary shows on Saturday, Jan. 19; and then the Finals on Jan. 26. It is an extravaganza of local talent that has become a tradition in raucous excitement.

“The energy level is unbelievable,” said Jayme Kelmigian, a first-year co-sponsor of Pioneer Theatre Guild and producer of FutureStars 2019. “I’ve been an audience member, and I will tell you it’s the most fun I’ve ever had in an audience. I went last year and I had a blast.”

If you’re wondering why there might be so much energy for what amounts to a high school talent show on steroids, here’s why: After the judges determine the top 5 acts of the preliminary rounds, the audience determines the top 3 of those 5. How would that create energy?

Well, the audience doesn’t vote for the top 3. A decibel meter is used to measure the audience’s applause/cheering/screaming/etc., and that’s how the top 3 are determined. Those are the three acts from each of the four preliminary rounds that go to the jam-packed Finals.

Manning competed in FutureStars the past two years, and she made it to the finals both years. She sang a duet with fellow student, Ryan Anderson, “Suddenly Seymour” from Little Shop of Horrors in 2017; and she sang a solo, “Sorry Not Sorry” by Demi Lovato last year.

“It’s been a dream come true to actually participate in FutureStars because I’ve been going to see it in the audience since I was very little,” Manning said. “To make it to the Finals was amazing, but really that really isn’t what I’m thinking about this year. It’s just having fun with the kids I’m meeting and getting a chance to perform.

“If I make the Finals again, that would be great.”

Manning will have three opportunities in the preliminaries. She will sing a solo, “Oh Darling”, by The Beatles; “How Will I Know”, made famous by Whitney Houston; and “Natural Woman”, by Carole King.

Manning is a member of the Pioneer Theatre Guild, but that isn’t a requirement. In fact, that’s part of what makes FutureStars 2019 so enjoyable. Some of the performers aren’t accustomed to performing.

“It’s not theater, it’s pop music, so you get a really different bunch of performers, which is fantastic,” said Kelmigian. “It’s not just theater kids. It draws a diverse population.

“You might get a kid who plays sports, but who has found a voice in country music and wants to perform. This is the perfect place for that to happen. This isn’t classical or theater music.”

Each of the four preliminary competitions feature a musical theme: Beatlemania; #RESPECT Strong Women/Powerful Voices; Totally ‘80s and myTunes, hits from the past year.

“Just about all styles, all genres of popular music are welcome here,” said Kelmigian. “If you can’t find music you like here, than you don’t like music.”

There will be quantity as well as quantity. Approximately 80 acts comprising about 60 students will vie for the title throughout the five shows. Some students are in more than one act, so they have an increased chance of making it to the Finals.

And, what makes this competition even more compelling is there isn’t even a prize.

“We wondered whether not having a prize lessens the spirit, or the enjoyment of it, but it really doesn’t,” Kelmigian said. “They’re just after that coveted title.”


PRELIMINARY SHOWS, all tickets $10
Friday, Jan. 18
7 p.m.: Beatlemania
9:30 p.m.: #RESPECT Strong Women/Powerful Voices
Saturday, Jan. 19
7 p.m.: Totally ‘80s
9:30 p.m.: myTunes Top Hits from the past year

FINAL COMPETITION, Adults $15; Seniors, Students, PHS Staff $10
Saturday, Jan. 26
7:30 p.m. (Reserved Seating)

Tickets available at https://a2tix.com/organizations/pioneer-theater-guild or at the door the night of the shows.

by Jeff Barr