Students are ready for their closeup

Just think — the girl that sits in front of you in philosophy class may have a set of powerhouse pipes comparable to Aretha Franklin. Or the kid that hasn't talked all semester in history discussion, he may belt it out like Stevie Wonder.

And you could probably live on amongst them without ever knowing.

Luckily, Marquette Superstar, which is back for its second year, kicked off last Thursday.

The annual contest calls out Marquette students to audition vocal and performance talents with a 20-second performance of a song of their choice. Four judges then select the top 10 contestants. The contest continues until March 5 with two people eliminated every Thursday.

While some contestants had experience singing since middle school, others decided to audition for Superstar purely on a whim. Many said their experience was limited to belting it out only in confined spaces like showers or cars or at parties.

Catherine Benage, a College of Communication sophomore, and Paula Puntillo, a College of Arts & Sciences sophomore, came out to perform a rendition of "Summer Nights," the Sandy and Danny duet from Grease. Benage, as Sandy, wore hot pink lipstick while Puntillo was in gym shoes and a tight black T-shirt.

"Our singing experience goes about as far as singing in the shower," Benage said. "We just thought we'd try out for fun."

Contestants not only had to perform in front of the judges, but also the MUTV crew and camera operators. The bright lights of Studio 7, senior judges and large room could intimidate even confident performers.

Many students, however, weren't even aware of Superstar Auditions until last Thursday afternoon.

Ellen Kingsbury, a College of Nursing freshman, said that a friend called her that night at 5:25 and told her to check out the auditions, which started just five minutes later.

Kingsbury performed Pat Benatar's "Hit Me With Your Best Shot" to showcase her vocal abilities.

"I love Pat Benatar and the whole rock thing," Kingsbury said. "I wasn't nervous at first but in front of the judges I was."

Cristal Arce, a College of Communication senior, performed Destiny's Child's version of "Amazing Grace" from their 1999 album "The Writing's On The Wall." While it's a tough task to dub her Beyoncé, Arce said she thought her audition went well.

"I didn't even know about it," Arce said. "I found out about it today. That's me, though, very last minute."

Arce said that she recognized a couple of the four student judges from around campus. The panel was made up of Greg Shutters, Luke Patton, Becky Simo, who are seniors in the College of Communication and Nicole Lindell, a senior in the College of Arts & Sciences.

"I think that made it worse," Arce laughed.

Since Superstar is modeled off of American Idol, it is easy to typecast each judge as a Simon, Paula or Randy. In case you aren't aware of these solidified stereotypes, they can be summed up with one word for each. Paula is a pushover, Randy a levelheaded and Simon just ruthless.

Shutters, however, resists any Simon comparisons.

"I like to think that I'm not sinking into a 'role,' but I might have been a little mean to some of the contestants," he said. "I'm a much nicer guy in real life than I am on TV. I do want to make sure that I tell the contestants what I'm actually thinking. I don't want to string them along saying that they did OK when I didn't totally dig the performance."

Shutters said to counter his criticisms, he would heap on praise when a contestant delivered an outstanding performance.

"It's an extra-special feat when a contestant moves me to sing along," he said. "One contestant at auditions did a wonderful job and I was moved to come in and sing the guitar part in the background. It might have made the show worse, I don't know. But we did move her on to the next round."

"Overall, I was really impressed with the level of talent," he said. "I think it's great that we have a competition like Marquette Superstar so that people can show off their musical talent. These people are walking around with us on campus every day and no one would know what amazing voices they have."

Two performers will be eliminated at 5:30 tonight in Johnston Hall's Studio 7. Episodes can be watched online at marquettesuperstar.com.