They could be stars. At least that's what they are hoping and wishing and singing and dancing their little hearts out for.
It's show time at Reisterstown Road Plaza, where dozens of kids vied yesterday for a chance to make it to the real "Showtime" at New York's famed Apollo Theater.
Kids from ages 5 to 12 performed in front of Maxine Lewis, the amateur-night and Apollo kids' segment producer for "It's Showtime at the Apollo."
"Turn toward your audience! Act like they are your Apollo audience!" Lewis coaches the nervous kids, who look in every direction but at the crowd.
"Sing loud! I'm sure you are a good singer, but now only your mother knows that unless you sing loud!" she says to one quiet boy.
Lewis spins around on her heels and addresses a girl duo. "Are you all doing 'The Boy is Mine'?" she asks with weariness in her voice. It wasn't exactly the first time she had heard the hit song by singers Brandy and Monica.
There were dancers in sparkly, sequined vests. There were singers, some good, some a little wobbly. Most were nervous, but all gave it their best for a shot at show biz.
Fifty of the acts will be back tomorrow. From that group, one lucky, talented act will go to New York to perform in front of a national television audience. The stakes could be high.
After all, appearances at the Harlem theater are credited with helping to launch the careers of Ella Fitzgerald and Luther Vandross and comedian Sinbad.
Makita Phillips, 12, and her mom, Jelline, traveled from Clinton to the Northwest Baltimore mall for the talent search.
Makita gave a stirring rendition of the song "Home" from the musical "The Wiz." As an older woman in the crowd says after the performance, "That girl can sang!"
"I've been singing since I was little," Makita says. "I really don't practice, I just get up and sing." She made it on the semifinalist list and will be back Saturday.
Singers Monae Whitehead, 9, and Tiara Shahid, 9, also will compete on Saturday.
The two little cousins who sang -- what else? -- "The Boy Is Mine" had a lot of energy in front of the crowd.
One folded her arms across her chest and feigned an attitude, probably having taken a cue from the video.
"I was nervous," Monae says minutes after they finish.
"Me too," Tiara echoes.
Lewis, who judged whether the acts would come back for the last round tomorrow, was generous with the children.
"Sometimes I give them a break, even if they are not exactly what I am looking for," she says. "Kids this age need exposure for something that is positive."
Baltimore is the last of six cities that Lewis has visited for the McDonald's Apollo Kids Talent Search, which is sponsored by the fast-food restaurant chain. The other cities were Memphis, New Orleans, St. Louis, Shreveport, La., and Philadelphia.
Cynthia Brown, who owns the McDonald's franchise at the shopping center, will be one of the judges on Saturday.
"I'll be looking for originality, a talent that you just don't see every day," she says.
"All of these kids are good, but it will be our job to select the best of the best."
The McDonald's Apollo Kids Talent Search will continue at Reisterstown Road Plaza in the Center Court tomorrow from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. It's too late to enter, but you can still cheer on the children.
Pub Date: 8/21/98