Earlier this month, The Wheatley School of Old Westbury held its second annual “Wheatley’s Got Talent” show. It was a typical talent performance in all respects except for one: the talent. Eight acts, including singing, dancing, acrobatics and magic, by contestants of all grades, clearly illustrated the proclivity for the arts that makes Wheatley students unique.
The Wheatley chapter of Tri-M, a nationwide musical honor society, hosts the event. For weeks, the club planned, publicized and rehearsed the show.
This year, Tri-M added an interesting spin on the show. Showdown is an annual Wheatley tradition that pins each grade against each other in various competitive events throughout the year. The grade that purchased the greatest number of tickets for the show won Showdown points.
The eighth graders won this competition, as they made up 34 percent of the audience. Additionally, the grade of the winners of the show won 25 percent of the ticket sales’ profit. The eighth and eleventh grades split this award, each receiving $195, as the winners of Wheatley’s Got Talent were brothers Jeffrey Roudbai (eleventh grade) and Michael Roudbai (eighth grade). These two additions to the performance encouraged more students to attend the event, and the added competitive component between the grades rallied school spirit.
I hosted the show along with Alexa Kamberg. From an onstage perspective, the contestants provided a fantastic show for the audience. One of the best aspects of this year’s show was the diversity of the acts. It made the show so entertaining and the competition very tight.
First up were Dan Fox and Max Hochstein, an eighth grade DJ-dancer duo. While Fox provided the techno music with his DJ equipment, Hochstein performed an extremely impressive dance that resembled robotic movements, which involved his isolating certain parts of his body while moving others.
Next were junior Jessie Cao and sophomore Michelle Lin, singing “Break Even” by The Script. Both girls have beautiful voices that complemented each other in difficult harmonies. Third were the acrobats, eighth graders Diana Kokotos and Brooke Christman, who bended, twisted, rolled, flipped and turned in all sorts of ways to the song “A Shot in the Dark” by Emma Lee. They did various gymnastics and dance moves as partners and individually, all of which were extremely graceful and made the backs of everyone watching hurt just a little bit.
The fourth pair of contestants consisted of juniors Joy Bestourous and Nick Vazquez, who sang a beautiful duet of an acoustic version of “Latch” by Sam Smith, and after them came another junior, Samantha Leong, who did a K-Pop dance to a mash-up of “Sugar Free” and “Up-and-Down.”
Seniors Neil Shahdadpuri and Melanie Esquilin sang “Home” by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros. It was no ordinary duet, though. Midway through the song, six other seniors ran on stage from the aisles and stood behind Shahdadpuri and Esquilin, clapping, snapping, singing back up and smiling. It was one of the most lively and fun performances. Everyone on stage and in the audience was enjoying themselves.
Second to last were eighth graders Nada Al-Okla and Michelle Porter, who performed a hip-hop dance
to “Boss” by Fifth Harmony. These two girls are extremely talented. They possessed the perfect attitude and stage presence needed to dance hip-hop.
And last, but not least, were the magicians, brothers Jeffrey Roudbai (a junior) and his assistant, Michael Roudbai (a freshman). They performed a classic card trick, which proved to be not so classic in the end. Michael duct-taped Jeffrey’s face. After one of the judges had picked a card, which was only known to that judge, Jeffrey eventually removed the tape from his face. In his mouth was the card that the judge picked. No one knows how they did it.
After all of the contestants performed, the three judges, teachers Mr. Haig, Mr. Plana and Mrs. Stein, who had been commenting on each act, selected the four finalists, who would then perform slightly different acts after intermission.
During intermission, last year’s Wheatley’s Got Talent winners performed. The now ninth-grade band called The Originals consists of singers Tessa Karikas and Sydney Behar along with piano player Nicole Hetzel.
Then, the four finalists were announced: Dan Fox and Max Hochstein, Diana Kokotos and Brooke Christman, Joy Bestourous and Nick Vazquez and the brother team of Jeffrey Roudbai and Michael Roudbai.
The four second-round performances were astonishing, and it was a close competition. It was then up to the audience to choose who would be the winner of this year’s show. The audience members voted for one of the four finalists, using their tickets as ballots.
While the ballots were being counted, The Originals performed again. Afterwards, it was time to announce the winner: Jeffrey Roudbai and Michael Roudbai, the magicians. In both of their acts, the brothers were charismatic, and their magic was both captivating and incomprehensible, in a good way. They did seem like professional magicians. In their second act as finalists, the pair used a magical box hanging on stage for all to see.
They asked one of the judges, Mr. Haig, random questions about his life, such as “What is your eldest brother’s name?” and “What is your favorite thing to do?” Then, Jeffrey took down the hanging box, which had not been touched the entire time, and took out a piece of paper. Handwritten on that paper were Mr. Haig’s answers from one minute ago. It seemed impossible. The trick is still a mystery.
Jeffrey has been practicing magic for two years, with his younger brother, Michael, as an assistant. He has been hired to do magic at children’s birthday parties and enjoys doing magic for his friends and family. Jeffrey said about “Wheatley’s Got Talent,” “Mike and I thought performing in ‘Wheatley’s Got Talent’ was a thrilling experience.”
“We do magic for the reactions, and if we don’t get an oo or an ahh, we know we’re not doing something right,” said Jeffrey. The brothers aspire to compete on “America’s Got Talent” someday, a dream I have no doubt will come true.
This new Wheatley event was successful for a second time. It brought the community together to see the many talents that Wheatley students possess. Many of these talents were hidden from the rest of the student body until the show. It was a great night full of oo’s and ahh’s. The community looks forward to being entertained by future talents that will be discovered in the years to come.