JR Russell works with Ethan Tang on stage positioning during a Saturday mentoring session with participants of Whidbey Has Talent. Photos by Patricia Guthrie/Whidbey News Group

JR Russell works with Ethan Tang on stage positioning during a Saturday mentoring session with participants of Whidbey Has Talent. Photos by Patricia Guthrie/Whidbey News Group

Whidbey has (lots of) talent

Auditions attract 88 singing, dancing, kicking, musicial kids

The kicks, rolls, chops and lunges of Geric Guerrero and Ethan Tang came across loud and clear.

But their actual vocals needed some work.

“Can you try that louder?” asked JR Russell.

“Nunchucks,” Geric, 11, not quite screamed.

Geric and Ethan, 10, performed their taekwondo routine, “Five Finger Death Punch,” Saturday afternoon in front of a room full of critics, also known as mentors, coaches, friendly advisers and No. 1 supporters.

The two boys are one of 40 acts of this year’s Whidbey Has Talent. Described as a celebration of Whidbey’s young talent, the six weeks of auditions and practice culminates in an April 15 public performance and contest at Oak Harbor High School.

There’s also a sneak preview April 7 at Regency on Whidbey Retirement and Assisted Living for residents and families.

This is the third year Whidbey Has Talent put out the call for contestants, open to students K-12 who reside in the school districts of Whidbey Island.

Auditions took place earlier this month.

“We had 88 acts try out,” said JR Russell, director of the event. “That’s the most ever. We had to pare it down to 40.”

In total, 52 children and teens are participating.

Youth are divided into age categories; Presentation Division, kindergarten to 5th grade; Junior Division, 6-8 grade; Senior Division, 9-12 grade.

On April 15, judges will pick three top contestants in each category while the public gets to vote for “people’s choice” favorites.

Mentors gave advice Saturday to any individual or group wanting help; 27 acts took them up on the offer.

Adults with acting, singing, directing, dancing and other talents volunteered to help.

“Over-act, over-exaggerate everything,” Sarah Russell suggested to the taekwondo team. She explained to them that performing in a huge 400-seat auditorium means people have to see from “waaaaaaay in the back. “

In 20-minute practice sessions allotted for each act, volunteers offered all kinds of gentle advice.

“We’ve been coaching, mentoring all day, from stage presence to the mechanics of the piece,” Luana Kim said late Saturday afternoon.“We’ve given them all kinds of tips, as much as you can do in 20 minutes.”

Other mentors on hand Saturday were two familiar faces from Whidbey Playhouse, director Allenda Jenkins and actor Emily Hoyt who just starred in “The Producers.”

The event is produced by Whidbey Playhouse with several business sponsors. Island Thrift recently gave Whidbey Has Talent a $10,000 grant toward wireless microphones and other production needs, Russell said.

Looking on from the corner were proud parents, Geric’s mother Arllien Guerrero and Phat Tang, father of Eric.

Many of the participants are fitting Whidbey Has Talent around their usual whirlwind of activities.

“We just came from the spelling bee where Geric made it to third place and then zipped down here,” Guerrero said, laughing.

The four-minute routine shows off many of the Korean martial art skills their sons have learned the past two years.

“About 99 percent of it is theirs,” said Phat Tang. “They came up with it.”

The two take classes at Woodward’s Taekwondo Academy, where they became friends. Geric Guerrero is a sixth-grader at Oak Harbor Intermediate School and Ethan Tang is a fourth-grader at Broadview Elementary.

While the two have demonstrated at tournaments and for schools, it will be their first show in front of a large audience.

Asked if they’re nervous about the April 15 show, both just shrugged under blue Whidbey Has Talent t-shirts given to them following the mentoring session.

“No,” Ethan simply replied, “It’s fun.”

• Whidbey Has Talent Sneak Preview: 10:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. Saturday, April 7 for Regency Retirement Home residents and families.

Final Show: Sunday, April 15 at Oak Harbor High School; 2 p.m., Presentation Division, K-grade 5; 4 p.m., Junior Division, grades 6-8; 6:30 p.m., Senior Division, grades 9-12. $5 tickets; open to the public. Information: www.whidbeyhastalent.com

Geric Guerrro (left) and Ethan Tang perform their taekwondo routine Saturday in front of volunteer mentors helping with the production of Whidbey Has Talent.

Geric Guerrro (left) and Ethan Tang perform their taekwondo routine Saturday in front of volunteer mentors helping with the production of Whidbey Has Talent.

Parents Phat Tang and Arllien Guerrero watch their respective sons practice their Korean martial arts routine Saturday at a coaching session. The boys met learning taekwondo and came up with their routine, “Five Finger Death Punch,” together.

Parents Phat Tang and Arllien Guerrero watch their respective sons practice their Korean martial arts routine Saturday at a coaching session. The boys met learning taekwondo and came up with their routine, “Five Finger Death Punch,” together.

Katie Arguijo, 12, practices her song at Saturday’s mentoring sessions for Whidbey Has Talent performers while Allenda Jenkins looks on.

Katie Arguijo, 12, practices her song at Saturday’s mentoring sessions for Whidbey Has Talent performers while Allenda Jenkins looks on.

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