'At Last' Mizzou Idol takes stage

Senior Keertana Sastry won a paid trip to 'American Idol' tryouts.

Junior Tyler Filmore sings and dances to 'Down' by Jay Sean during Mizzou Idol on Thursday in Jesse Auditorium. The winner of the competition, senior Keertana Sastry, received an all-expense paid trip to the American Idol auditions.

Jesse Auditorium filled with song Thursday for the first Mizzou Idol competition. Along the same vein as the nationally televised series "American Idol," Mizzou Idol showcased students' vocal skills and picked a winning contestant through an elimination process.

Cosmo from local radio station Y107/106.9 FM filled Ryan Seacrest's shoes as the show's host.

"I've been practicing all week at the station saying, 'This is Mizzou Idol,' but I don't think I have the whole Seacrest thing down," Cosmo said.

The 20 MU student performers who waited behind the stage were chosen Feb. 28 after auditions on Feb. 21 and 22. Fifteen were determined to be definite competitors, while five others were designated to the "wildcard" round. The fate of those five were decided by the audience's vote, which was tallied by a "Poll Everywhere" program. The program allowed the audience to participate via text message.

The wildcard round was up first, and 47 percent of the crowd vote went to Victor Lee to continue on to the next phase of the competition. Lee quickly became a crowd favorite as the underdog.

The four judges, chosen for their places in the Columbia community, were then introduced. Shakespeare's Pizza Manager Kurt Mirtsching, Pershing Commons coordinator Barbie Banks, The Blue Note talent buyer Pete McDevitt and MU Special Events Chairman John Shealy filled the four judges' chairs.

The contestants performed a variety of songs that kept the three-hour show fresh. Freshman Austin Newman showed off his dancing skills, senior John Gurney played his own original music and senior Stephanie Sander performed a mash-up of two Lady Gaga songs while playing the keyboard. Lee performed "You Raise Me Up" by Josh Groban.

"It hit me in the face," Mirtsching said of Lee's performance.

After all 16 contestants performed, the judges deliberated. After elimination, the top five performers were narrowed down to junior Paige Sommerer, senior Keertana Sastry, Gurney, junior Alicia Davis and wildcard winner Lee.

Each finalist performed another song before the final elimination. Davis chose to sing "Blame It On Me" by Chrisette Mitchell.

"Not only could I hear the passion, I could see the passion," Shealy said in response to Davis' performance.

Although Lee's wildcard win did not leave him with a trophy, it crowned him as one of the crowd's favorites. In his performance of "I Believe I Can Fly," the audience waved their arms, lit cell phones in hand and sang background vocals.

In the end, it was Sastry who took the first place prize. Sastry chose to sing Celine Dion's "Taking Chances" and "At Last."

"I got chills in the middle of the song," Shealy said about Sastry's performance of "At Last."

As the first place winner, Sastry received a paid trip to audition for "American Idol" this summer. The second place prize, a $50 gift card for Shakespeare's Pizza, went to Sommerer, who rounded out her performances with Norah Jones' "Don't Know Why."

Although Mizzou Idol has played its swan song in 2010, Sastry will move on to the real deal in the fall.

"She was amazing — well, they all were," senior Jennifer Seise said. "But I wouldn't be surprised to see Keertana actually make it onto the show."

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