Lo­cal fi­nal­ists are al­ready The Next Star

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - ENTERTAINMENT - BRAD OSWALD

TWO out of six. Or, if you pre­fer, one out of three. Any way you jug­gle the num­bers, there’s a 33 per cent chance that YTV’s The Next Star will be a Win­nipeg­ger.

When the show’s fi­nal­ists take the stage for Sun­day’s fi­nale (which airs at 9 p.m. on YTV), two mem­bers of the Top 6 will have friends and fam­ily back in Win­nipeg cheer­ing them on and hop­ing the ti­tle of The Next Star is car­ried back to our tal­ent­b­lessed Prairie burg for the first time in the show’s five-sea­son run. Issy Dahl, 15, and Grace John­ston, who just turned 16, are both very hope­ful that they’ve made enough of a mu­si­cal im­pres­sion on the show’s au­di­ence to earn the votes that will tilt The Next Star’s tote board their way (vot­ing, by text mes­sage and on­line at thenextstar.ytv.com, con­tin­ues un­til 6 p.m. Sun­day).

“Hon­estly, it would just mean the world to me to end this ex­pe­ri­ence with some­thing like that,” Dahl says in a tele­phone con­ver­sa­tion from Toronto, where the Top 6 has been re­hears­ing for the past cou­ple of weeks in prepa­ra­tion for Sun­day’s big show. “The whole thing has been so amaz­ing and awe­some, it would just be crazy (to win). I can’t re­ally get my head around that.”

John­ston of­fers a sim­i­lar sen­ti­ment: “I think I’d be re­ally proud of my­self if I was The Next Star, out of all the thou­sands of peo­ple who au­di­tioned,” she says. “It would mean a lot of me, and it would be re­ally nice to get the prize and all the pub­lic­ity and ev­ery­thing.”

The win­ner of The Next Star re­ceives a prize pack­age that in­cludes two songs to be dis­trib­uted by Sony Mu­sic Canada, a $5,000 shop­ping spree at Sears and an Epi­phone Masterbuilt acous­tic gui­tar. Of course, given the num­bers in­volved, there’s also a 66 per cent chance The Next Star won’t have a Win­nipeg ad­dress. But given all they’ve gained from the ex­pe­ri­ence of be­ing on the show, nei­ther of the lo­cal hope­fuls would con­sider such a re­sult to be a loss. “Be­ing in the Top 6 is the big­gest thing,” says John­ston. “If I won, that would be awe­some, but I think we’ve kind of al­ready won. We’ve all gone through all these ex­pe­ri­ences, and we’ve all got so much in com­mon with our love for mu­sic. It kind of bonds us to­gether.”

Dahl added that the Top 6 has be­come such a tight-knit group of friends that no mat­ter who wins, ev­ery­one is go­ing to be happy with the out­come.

“We’re re­ally close,” says Dahl, “so who­ever wins, I’ll be re­ally happy for them and will feel re­ally pos­i­tive about it. We’re like a fam­ily, and we get along re­ally well. I think the fact that we’ve been un­der all this pres­sure to­gether makes it easy to con­nect, be­cause we’ve all been go­ing through the same thing.”

Sun­day’s live fi­nale (which will ac­tu­ally be broad­cast here on a tapede­layed ba­sis be­cause Win­nipeg re­ceives the West-Coast feed of YTV’s sig­nal) takes place at the Canada’s Won­der­land theme park north of Toronto, and will fea­ture the Top 6 fi­nal­ists tak­ing the stage to per­form their own orig­i­nal sin­gles.

In ad­di­tion, spe­cial guests Cher Lloyd, Shawn Des­man and Never­est will con­trib­ute mu­si­cal num­bers to the show be­fore host Adamo Ruggiero — aided by judges Keshia Chanté, Tara Oram and Mark Spi­coluk — an­nounces the Sea­son 5 win­ner of The Next Star.

What­ever the out­come, it prom­ises to be an un­for­get­table evening for John­ston, Dahl and their Top-6 com­rades — Cal­gary res­i­dent Dar­ren Es­panto and On­tar­i­ans Brook­lyn Roe­buck, Ryan Hawken and and Amer Dhali­wal.

And then ... sigh ... next week, it’s back to “nor­mal” life in their re­spec­tive home­towns.

“I don’t think I’m go­ing to let this all end,” says Dahl, who will re­sume classes at Miles MacDon­nell Col­le­giate. “I’m still go­ing to continue try­ing to work in the mu­sic in­dus­try and get my­self out there. I think it’s a good head start, and now I’m ready to move on my­self as an artist.”

For her part, John­ston said she ex­pects her friends and class­mates won’t al­low all the TV-star fuss and bother to go to her head.

“I think peo­ple will be re­ally sup­port­ive,” she says of re­turn­ing to classes at Gor­don Bell High School. “I’ve had lots of sup­port from my friends on Face­book. It’s been re­ally great. ... I’m go­ing to be in mu­si­cal things at school — I’m in the dance troupe and I’m also in the au­di­tion choir, too.”

And be­sides, on top of ev­ery­thing else they’ll take away from their time on The Next Star, both Dahl and John­ston have each gained a great new friend whose shared mu­si­cal pas­sion should pro­vide a life­time of fun.

“I think it’s good for Win­nipeg to have two peo­ple rep­re­sent­ing,” says Dahl. “Grace and I are re­ally good friends now, and when we’re in Win­nipeg, we hang out with each other. So it’s good, be­cause when I leave and I re­ally miss ev­ery­one here, I’ll still have her.”

Adds John­ston: “I re­ally like that she’s from Win­nipeg, be­cause when we all go home, I’ll still have some­one to hang out with and do mu­sic to­gether. I re­ally like that part.”

Issy Dahl

Grace John­ston

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