WHO said the days of variety were dead?
Not on the evidence of the grand final of The Big T talent contest at Harrogate Theatre.
On stage right now are the top three acts, as decided by audience vote.
There’s two young female singers with acoustic guitars (Lucy Preston and Jo Stephenson), 20 or so dancers and singers in red and black (ACTAcademy) and a six-piece cabaret band dressed as Mexicans (For Cuba).
All of them are waiting for the final audience vote to be announced, all of them wondering if they will be the winner. . .
This annual event for amateur talent across the district is run with impressive professionalism by The Big T team and the theatre.
Setting the tone for the events to follow are gues act Pulse, four young vivacious dancers from Harrogate.
Then, on strides the evening’s dapper and entertaining MC Mervyn Darby and the three celebrity judges, all of them giving their time to help raise funds for the theatre - Emmerdale actor John Middleton, Innovative Theatre director Penny Green and Kula Productions music promoter Mike Addison.
And so the contest begins.
First up is singer Louise Henry, delivering a stirring version of On Your Own from Les Miserables with a strong, clear voice and genuine acting charisma,
Disctracted are an insanely talented acoustic duo from Boroughbridge. Made up of two pre-teenage sisters at St Aidan’s High School, Emily and Danielle Atkinson, these country-ish youngsters belt out Lady Gaga’s Born This Way like seasoned performers.
Ikonic are an unusual dance duo in black bowler hats and gold face masks. Skilfully blending modern robotic movements with traditional mime, Harry Husband from Harrogate and Luke Nugent from Wetherby show real orginality.
In a strapless Katherine Jenkins-esque dress, Harrogate vocalist Emma Hart captures the dark drama of Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again from Phantom of the Opera with a lovely voice.
Knaresborough rock band Tweak have real couldn’t care less attitude - and pirate outfits. After starting in prog rock instrumental vein, they switch to a stomped-up version of ELO’s Mr Blue Sky to good effect.
One of the youngest finalists, little Jake Abbott, turns out to be one of the best. Performing Albert and the Lion by Marriott Edgar in a Hovis advert flat cap, this likable Harrogate lad’s acting and delivery show a talent well beyond his years.
Whoa - this is good. The massed ensemble of ACTAcademy from Harrogate, Knaresborough and Ripon) rip through an all-singing, all-dancing medley from Chicago with gusto and aplomb, throwing in a stunning All That Jazz and Roxie (which sees earlier competitor Louise Henry impressing once again).
Stone Age Heaven, a very young, T-shirted five-piece rock band from Harrogate tackle AC/DC’s classic You Shook Me All Night Long are an enjoyable mix of bashfulness and rock n roll nonchalance - and certainly know how to crack out a good tune.
Harrogate singer Andrew Salter looks experienced and his moving rendition of Bring Him Home from Les Miserables gets an amzing crowd reaction. You can almost see the three judges crying in their box above.
Knaresborough’s Olivia Tivo and Shane Scarth burst onto stage in a ball of energy, throwing in ballet, gymnastics and street dance in an exhausting routine full of daring and verve.
Tiny Lily McNeill is like a very young Charlotte Church, singing with deadly seriousness a delightful version of Panis angelicus - simply angelic.
Another of The Big T final highlights are young acoustic duo Lucy Preston from Harrogate and Jo Stephenson from Tockwith.
Performing modern country classic (Taylor Swift’s Mean) with real feeling and tremendous harmonies, this feisty duo nearly lift the roof off the theatre.
For a moment I think we’re watching Twilight - The Musical. Harrogate’s Wayne Dawson prowls the stage in moody black and grey but has the confidence, the looks and, importantly, the voice to make The Calling’s Wherever You Will Go his own. A heart-throb is born.
Last but certainly not least, quirky Harrogate six-piece musical outfit For Cuba perform Men at Work’s Aussie pop classic Down Under in mariachi style with Mexican sombreros. Logically shouldn’t work but it does; you could see them going down a storm at Edinburgh Fringe.
There’s more entertainment before the final votes are totted up.
Another change of jacket by the wonderful hire wire act that is tonight’s MC Mervyn Derby, an amazing new work by dynamic poet Tim Ellis (using the names of every act finalist) and the superb Studio 3 Dance Workshop girls.
Ah - the tension. Ah - the result. Third are ACTAcademy, second are Lucy & Jo and the winners are. . .For Cuba.
Cue much throwing of sombreros from the stage!