Kind of fresh, kind of wow, Charlee

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Kind of fresh, kind of wow, Charlee

Posted on: March 16th, 2014 by tommyj

Click here to view original web page at www.timesonline.com

With operatic power and elegant expression, the 2006 New Brighton graduate soloed on several songs in "David Arkenstone’s Symphonic Adventure," a concert mixing New Age and World music, Cirque-like acrobatics and Irish step-dancing.

The program has aired on other PBS stations, and WQED thought enough of it to premiere it as a pledge-break fundraiser.

Soon after the program aired locally, Brooks supporters filled her Facebook page with praise to the tune of "amazing," "phenomenal" and "incredible."

Brooks posted a heartfelt message about the dream-come-true experience, recalling how when she moved to Los Angeles in 2008 she lived out of her car.

"I questioned myself constantly; countless endeavors ended with little to no results. I figured out what anxiety attacks were, I cried a lot, and felt like I had to move constantly. I even ended up in the South for awhile, just looking for a place to call home," Brooks said. "I’m sharing this because I feel like there are many people out there with dreams no different than mine, and I’m here to say keep dreaming. Never give up on yourself even in the worst times, learn from everything both good and bad."

One of the biggest kicks Brooks got out of the concert was singing alongside acclaimed piper Eric Rigler, whose music she enjoyed in one of her favorite grade-school movies, "Titanic."

The concert’s star, Grammy nominated multi-instrumentalist Arkenstone, collaborated with Brooks last year on a concept album "Loveren" that tells a love story set in the world of mermaids.

Brooks and Arkenstone would like to take their show on the road, and hope the WQED program sparks enough interest to yield a Pittsburgh tour date.

I’d also encourage Brooks to test more mainstream waters, like on an adult contemporary album.

NO HELP FROM BLAKE

Alas, this wasn’t the year we got to see a Beaver County singer on "The Voice."

Center High graduate Evan Blankenship gave it a good ride, though, advancing through three preliminary rounds before reaching the "blind auditions" for the show’s celebrity coaches. His audition ended up on NBC’s cutting room floor, as it never aired.

Blankenship, now an aspiring Nashville-based country singer, is taking it in stride that his voice didn’t convince coaches Adam Levine, Shakira, Usher or Blake Shelton to turn their chairs around to pick him for their teams.

"All the judges were really nice," Blankenship said. "Me singing country, I knew if Blake didn’t turn then the chances of another coach turning would be slim.

"I sang ‘How Country Feels’ by Randy Houser," Blankenship said. "Blake said to sing a song like that, I needed to be pitch perfect pretty much. I was nervous. I had never done anything like that before, so I really didn’t have as much control over my voice as I liked, resulting in me being a little pitchy in some spots. He liked the kind of raspy-ness and tone of my voice and with another song choice he probably would’ve turned."

To reach the judges, Blankenship first had to pass two auditions in St. Louis, then a third one in Los Angeles.

As they often do for unsuccessful contestants, the judges encouraged Blankenship to re-audition next season, though he’s not sure if he will. Blankenship now will look to fill in his performance schedule, hoping to book a weekend slate of homecoming gigs back in Beaver County sometime in June or July. The former Ohio State football lineman said he has an August performance set for the Ohio State Fair.

PITTSBURGH SHOW SHELVED

"Those Who Kill" is on death’s door.

After just two episodes, A&E has shelved its Pittsburgh-set, Pittsburgh made crime drama starring Chloe Sevigny.

"Those Who Kill" pulled in 1.4 million viewers for its March 3 debut, but that number sank to 830,000 last Monday.

A&E announced it will re-launch the show, based on a Danish drama, in a new time-slot at a later date. That sounds like the kiss of death for "Those Who Kill."

My theories for why the show is failing:

1. The second episode got crushed by NBC’s "Believe," the intriguing mystery drama directed by recent Oscar winner Alfonso Cuaron and starring newcomer Johnny Sequoyah as a 10-year-old girl with remarkable mental powers. "Believe" drew 10 million viewers.

2. "Those Who Kill" is relentlessly dreary. Yes, we’re talking about murder investigations, but a glimmer of sunshine or humor might help.

3. Sex it up. Normally, I’d salute A&E for not making Sevigny’s Pittsburgh police detective look like a magazine cover girl. But would it hurt for her to have a sexy roommate/sidekick/boss/sister?

4. Crime scene investigation shows have been done to death. Who was clamoring for another one?

TIDBITS

* New York’s brotherly indie-pop trio AJR will appear 2 p.m. Saturday at a prom fashion show at the Macy’s at The Mall at Robinson.

AJR’s debut single, "I’m Ready," was in rotation last year on Sirius-XM Satellite Radio’s Top-20 station. The band composed by brothers Adam, Jack and Ryan (hence the AJR) also has warmed up audiences for pop stars like Demi Lovato and former Mall at Robinson visitors Fifth Harmony.

** Patterson Heights bluesman Vince Agwada will find himself in a good old-fashioned guitar shootout next Sunday.

Agwada and Pittsburgh six-stringers Jimmy Adler and Craig King are the combatants in "Guitar Showdown… Chicago Style" taking place from 4 to 8 p.m. at Moondog’s blues bar in Blawnox.

Sponsored by the Blues Society of Western Pennsylvania, the competition gives each guitarist an hour on stage to prove who’s the best. For the final hour, they’ll perform together, sparring and challenging each other toward new heights.

Tickets are $7.

*** "Frozen" arrives on home video Tuesday.

The blockbuster that’s still playing at a theater near you recently passed "Finding Nemo" to become animated filmdom’s fourth biggest moneymaker (behind "Shrek 2," "The Lion King" and "Toy Story 3.")

"Frozen" won the Oscar two weeks ago for Best Animated Feature Film, to the delight of its post-production supervisor, 1991 Blackhawk graduate Brent Hall.

 The film’s crew had quite a celebration that following day, Hall said.

 "The directors and producer each get an Oscar and all three were in the studio making their rounds," Hall said. "I’m pretty sure all 600 of us got pictures with them. Its been a pretty awesome run."

(Scott Tady is entertainment editor for The Times, and easy to reach at stady@timesonline.com)


Scott Tady

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