Mama Madison: Experimental jet set, no trash, and all stars

The beauty of the middle school talent show

They say everyone's a critic. And part of me thinks that this is true. But when I went to watch my middle school son's talent show this past week, I didn't find a whole lot to criticize. In fact, I was more than impressed with what I saw.

It wasn't so much the acts themselves that blew me away artistically. I had really wanted a Susan Boyle-junior moment. You know, for a slightly round, frizzy haired, anti-Miley Cyrus-type to take the stage and dazzle us with a big Broadway showstopper or an Aretha Franklin anthem.

And I can't exactly say that happened. But what did occur in that hour (and I must tip my hat to the executive producer moms who bought the show in under 65 minutes"they should totally be offered jobs by the Oscar folks) was pretty entertaining nonetheless.

There was a lovely classical guitar solo, some straight out of "Electric Bugaloo" break dancing, and a passionate interpretive dance solo. We also got to go a bit old school and enjoy a young lady singing and playing the piano to "Can't Help Falling in Love." Things got even older school with a gorgeous vocal rendition of "Scarborough Fair" that sounded way more original traditional British ballad than Simon and Garfunkel. And to make me feel personally "oldest school," one talented young lady sang "I'll Stand By You" and credited Carrie Underwood. For me, that song will always be Chrissie Hynde's.

But as to be expected at a middle school revue, Top 40 acts ruled the show. We heard two sixth-grade girls pining about unrequited love in Bruno Mars' "Grenade." The audience also heard a shy young man channel "American Idol" tenth-season contestant Chris Medina with "What are Words." And in case any of you are concerned, queen of the airwaves Adele was not underrepresented. We were treated to no fewer than three covers of her material that night, including a duet on "Set Fire to the Rain" which featured an interpretive dance number with an umbrella. I was a little disappointed there were no flames.

Even the subtle, and at times unintended, humor of the three Ryan Seacrest wannabee MCs was worth the price (free) of admission.

But of course, I was there mostly to see my own kid, a sixth-grader who will now be able to recount a successful parody of Beyonce's "Single Ladies" with six buddies as a treasured memory of his middle school years. Sure, a few steps were out of sync, but the seven of them proved the "Some Like It Hot" (or "Tootsie"?) principle infallible, once again. Boys dressed up like girls will always be funny.

I guess I'm not surprised all these kids we're willing to get up on stage; "American Idol" has been on TV since they were old enough to watch. But I don't think any of them were in it for a chance at a record contract. Some, I think, got up there to exercise a genuine artistic passion. Others were looking to "Make 'Em Laugh," both with them and at them. Most just thought it would be fun to be the center of attention for a minute or two; the emotional rewards of rapt audience can be pretty awesome when you're 12.

But the greatest talent I saw that evening was the talent for kindness. It didn't matter whether the act was worthy of going to Hollywood or not; everyone was polite and attentive during all the acts. "Supportive" is an understatement; every one of the 15 performances received thunderous applause.

So regardless if any of these kids is stardom-bound or not, they've had their moment. And as their proud (and slightly embarrassed parents), we've had ours.

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