By TODD ZEIGLER
Jake Latts is a man of many talents.
Well, â€œmanâ€ might not be giving him enough credit. Heâ€™s all of 14.
Last year, the actor/singer/piano and guitar player â€“ though guitar is only a recent hobby â€“ created an event for the children of Louisville to showcase their talents while supporting an organization that brings the arts to children who might not otherwise experience them.
The second annual Louisvilleâ€™s Got Talent will give locals a chance to compete in an open, adjudicated competition on the stage at the Jewish Community Center.
Proceeds from the event will go to support CenterStage Acting Out, the traveling professional arm of JCCâ€™s resident theater company that brings entertaining, educational musical theater to schools.
â€œI wanted to make something to raise money for Acting Out which would bring theater to kids around the city,â€ Jake Latts said. â€œSo I made the talent show to raise money for that.â€
Latts created the competition in conjunction with CenterStage as part of his bar mitzvah project. The premiere event in 2013 featured 90 contestants ages 7-18 performing in a variety of media from singing and dancing to improv â€“ all the way, in the case of one contestant, to stick twirling.
Latts is a veteran of CenterStage productions, including â€œJoseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoatâ€ and â€œThe Wizard of Oz,â€ so partnering with the company to create something was a natural fit, said Kate Latts, Jakeâ€™s mother.
â€œItâ€™s common as part of your bar mitzvah to do a community service project,â€ Kate Latts said. â€œAs he was thinking through what he could do for a mitzvah project, he wanted to do something in the arts. Jake and us have all been involved with JCC for a long time. He adores CenterStage. The Acting Out program was quite new at the time. Last year was just its second year. We started planning the first Louisvilleâ€™s Got Talent in 2012, and thatâ€™s how it all came about.â€
Contestants can register an act for $10 per person (so, for example, a dance troupe of four would cost $40). All acts will perform in 90-second slots in the preliminary rounds before a panel of judges consisting of Jake, CenterStage Music Director Angie Hopperton and Choreographer Zach Boone, and Michael Drury, artistic director of Pandora Productions. The final round will be judged by outgoing Fund for the Arts President Barbara Sexton Smith, former Miss Kentucky, Whitney Trowbridge, Hopperton and a representative from Heyman Talent talent agency. An audience vote will make up 50 percent of the final round judging as well. Jake will co-host the final round with CenterStage Artistic Director John Leffert.
Last yearâ€™s final round consisted of 20 acts, ranging from an improv troupe to a piano player and several singers. As of last week, 18 acts had signed up, and with promotional efforts just beginning to roll out, Jake and the organizers are expecting an even larger turnout this year.
Jake said the hardest part of judging last yearâ€™s competition was going through the preliminary rounds. His mother agreed.
â€œI think what was hard was that different talents speak to different people,â€ she said. â€œBecause there is such a variety of acts, itâ€™s hard to figure out how to standardize. Everybody had a different perspective of what was great.â€
A wide age range brings in performers from elementary school to the final years of high school. Jake said the judges try to balance the age range and talent to present a broad range of the best.
â€œWe looked at how old they were, and we took that into perspective when we were judging them, so it wouldnâ€™t be all extremely talented seniors in the final round and no little kids,â€ he said.
Though the competition takes place on a musical theater stage, singers are welcome to perform anything from Broadway classics to Top 40 chart-toppers and movie soundtrack staples.
â€œI think we should probably take bets on how many people sing â€˜Let It Goâ€™ this year,â€ joked Lenae Price, CenterStageâ€™s development and outreach coordinator. â€œI think weâ€™re going to keep a tally in the audition room. Iâ€™ve already had people call and ask if they can sing it.â€
Registration fees go toward prize offerings. First prize will win $300, second will earn $150 and third place will take home $75. Last yearâ€™s competition raised over $6,000 for the Acting Out program, and Price expects competition to be even more intense this year.
â€œA lot of the same people who auditioned last year are coming back this year,â€ she said. â€œIâ€™ve gotten a few e-mails asking if people from Bardstown can participate, even though itâ€™s called â€˜Louisvilleâ€™s Got Talent.â€™ Well, weâ€™re only in our second year, and I feel like weâ€™re pretty close, so come on in. You never know.â€
Louisville’s Got Talent
Registration deadline: Sept 5
Auditions: Sept. 7
Live finale: Sept. 21
For more information, go to jewishlouisville.org/jcc/centerstage/louisvilles-got-talent.