Tahoe’s star singer chosen
August 22, 2004
American Idol never passed through Tahoe looking for a star. But as it turns out, the lake has a few good contenders.
Three beautiful women graced the stage Saturday as finalists in Tahoe Superstar at the Valhalla Boathouse Theater, singing their hearts and souls out.
Gwen Diaz, a 32-year-old Puerto Rican native with smiling brown eyes, took home the crown. She dazzled the audience and judges with a sweet, clear voice and an elegant and captivating presence.
“I’ve never really pursued my dream, so any door that can open for me is absolutely wonderful,” Diaz said after she won, a bouquet in her arms, her face twinkling under a rhinestone tiara. Diaz has been singing “Forever,” since her older sister taught it to her. She’s lived in Tahoe for two years, dealing craps at Harrah’s. Her only singing experience is for church choirs and, recently, a Nevada musical theater group.
Runners-up were Michelle Sennings, who has performed in numerous productions at Lake Tahoe Community College, and Sharon Kerrigan, executive vice president for the South Tahoe Association of Realtors.
Twenty contestants competed Friday night and were narrowed to 10 for Saturday. The judges seemed divided.
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In the middle of the show, Sharon Kerrigan pranced on stage with a confidence that woke the audience and perked their ears. Hips swinging, sensuality bursting at the seams, she sang “Any Man of Mine.”
Michelle Sennings followed with a tear-jerking rendition of “Over the Rainbow,” to which Dennis Heinz, general manager of KRLT radio, said, “We have a saying in radio: Winner, winner, winner.” The crowd cheered in agreement.
Then three finalists were chosen for a final round of performances and the decisions were even tougher. Christina Robinette of Entertainment Plus Productions and a critical judge throughout the competition summed it up: three different people, three different style and personas, all could be marketed in the entertainment industry in three different ways.
Diaz heads home with quite an opportunity: a chance to make a demo CD, a talent contract, a makeover and head shots, and a role in an upcoming Valhalla production.
Robinette is looking forward to another competition next year, with a few improvements.
“I’d like to see a junior event. There were a lot of younger people last night with a lot of talent but not enough experience,” she said. “Someone who is a good performer is a complete package. In my industry, there’s a lot of good singers, but not a lot of good performers.”