The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

May 11, 2012

“Finalists” set for Branson stage

Moon River Theatre hosts 15 former Idols for summer showcase

By Dave Woods
The Joplin Globe

BRANSON Mo. — Elliot Yamin is excited about performing in Branson.

“I’m super stoked about it,” he said of “The Finalists Live,” a musical showcase featuring American Idol top 10 finalists. The season’s first showcase opens May 14 at Andy Williams Moon River Theatre.  “It’s a beautiful venue with top notch professionals and the band and background singers. It’s going to be great,” he said.

Yamin has much respect for the other four former Idols who, through June 16, fill out Moon River’s first “Finalists “cast.

“They are really cool,” the Idol season five, third-place finalist said of Thia Magia, Blake Lewis, Lee Dewyze and Kimberly Caldwell.  

“I love these guys. We are doing some group songs together. I’m looking forward to being a part of this family.”

Through August 18, the Moon River Theatre, 2500 Highway 76 in Branson, will present three different shows, running approximately one month and each featuring five Idol finalists. Future shows includes Reuban Studdard, the winner of Idol season 2, Diana Degarmo, Ace Young and Bo Bice. On Monday, fans of the first five finalists gathered at Branson Airport for the chance to press some flesh with the former Idols. Kimberly Caldwell was unable to appear at the event due to travel delays.   

Opening night

Like Yamin, Blake Lewis, the season six runner-up, is ready to open the show.

“I’m really excited to get in there and start working it out,” he said.  

“I have a lot of tricks up my sleeve. I brought all my gear and all my crazy vocal effects. I might pull some people on-stage and make them do some dancin’ and singin.’”

He said he likes to put on an audience-interactive performance and likes the musical variety his collogues bring to the show.

“Every one here is so unique,” he said. “I can’t wait to sing with them all.”

Thia Magia, the season’s youngest finalist, is 17. She hopes to meet the theatre’s namesake during her run in Branson.

“I love Andy Williams,” she said. “I used to sing his songs with my grandpa. I enjoy Andy and hopefully, we will be able to meet him during the tour.”

Lee Dewyze won American Idol’s ninth season. He’s sees his five week Moon River engagement as a good opportunity.  

“It’s a great way to show them the new songs, meet the fans, see new people and do new things,” he said. “Any opportunity to work with people you haven’t worked with before is a great experience. You get to learn new things.”

Tough industry

Much like former American Idol winners Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood inspired Branson’s new “Finalists, ” they hope to pass on some sage advice to aspiring entertainers themselves.

“Make sure you have thick skin,” Lewis explained. “The music industry is one of the toughest ones to be in and be successful. You have to work hard every day 24 hours a day and really represent your self. Be good to every body and don’t burn any bridges and have fun.”

Dewayze, a winner himself, has his own advice.

“Just believe in your self and don’t let people tell you no,” he said. “Just keep do your thing and don’t worry about what people have to say about it.”

Yamin, whose bid for Idol’s top title fell just short of victory, cautions young performers to stay true to their music.

“Take the fame and glory part out,” he said. “If that’s the main reason you want to get into this, it’s the wrong reason.”

But, he added, take advantage of every opportunity afforded.

“I encourage everybody to try out for Idol and the other shows,” he said. “There are so many competitions out there. Take advantage of them.”

Finalists Q & A

Thia Magia

Favorite Idol: “Kelly Clarkson. She’s the reason I wanted t Join.”

Favorite Idol judge: Jennifer Lopez

Favorite Idol this season: “I say Holly (Cavanagh) and Jessica Sanchez. They are both my friends. I’m really happy for the girls.”

Lee Dewyze

Favorite Idol: “Kelly Clarkson. I’m a big fan. Carrie Underwood, too.”

Favorite Idol judge: “Ellen DeGeneres was super nice and cool, but Simon Cowell tells it like it is.”

Favorite this season: “I think Jessica Sanchez is great. I think she is very talented.”

Elliot Yamin

Favorite Idol: “The first is Blake (Lewis), and second is probably Adam Lambert. Those two just brought total originally to the show.”

Favorite Idol judge: “I’m going to go with Simon. He gives you the real deal and is so straightforward.”

Favorite Idol this season: “Jessica Sanchez. She’s a absolute beast of a vocalist. I enjoy hearing her sing every week.”

Blake Lewis

Favorite Idol: Elliot Yamin.

Favorite Idol judge: “Simone Cowell. He brought validity to American Idol. And Jennifer Lopez, I love her.”

Favorite Idol this season: “Elise Testone was one of my favorites and Skylar (Laine) Those were the two I wanted to see at the end.”

Kimberly Caldwell

Caldwell was a finalist on the second season of American Idol. She’s hosted shows on VH-1 and MTV and now fronts Oxygen’s Best Ink, the network’s tattoo reality competition. Featured until she was 15-years-old in Country Tonight, a longtime Branson variety show, Caldwell was  a Star Search junior vocalist winner and has perfromed at The Grand Ole’ Opry.

Want to go?

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go to or call 417-666-6094.