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Field set for start of Manteca Idol finals
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WHAT: 2010 Manteca Idol
WHEN: Wednesday, 7 p.m.
Where: Chez Shari at the Manteca golf course
Cost: $5 at the door
MORE INFO: Call the Boys & Girls Club at 239-KIDS
The Manteca Idol finalists now have to be ready to show what they have for the judges each and every week.

Wednesday night, the panel of five judges narrowed down the field in the “wildcard” round to an even 12 contestants vying for the title of Manteca Idol. Out of nine contestants that performed, six were selected to progress and compete for both the bragging rights and the cash prize in the fundraiser that helps raise money for the Boys and Girls Club and culminates at the organization’s annual telethon on Nov. 8.

After two weeks of sending three Idol contestants to the finals, all of those who didn’t make it were welcomed back on Wednesday for a chance to prove their mettle once again. Several didn’t disappoint when provided the second chance.

Cheyenne Hickey most likely stole the spotlight with her performance of Mandy Moore’s “Only Hope” that was executed perfectly. It was a healthy balance of just enough voice and stage presence to not oversaturated her attempt with an overzealous performance that would have sunk her chances at moving on.

And Jasmyne Goday took a modern page out of an old Idol’s book when she opted to try Mary J. Blige’s “I’m Going Down” a cappella – the same way that former Idol winner Christine Acosta sang Aretha Franklin’s “Natural Woman” in such a stunning fashion that it left my jaw on the floor.

While Acosta took a page of  what could considerably be arguably the best R&B singer of her era and all time, Goday tried the same thing with the modern equivalent of Blige and nailed the song superbly. It earned her a spot in the finals.

It was Valiyah Martin, however, that took a Top of the Charts song and made it her own when she turned Taylor Swift’s “White Horse” into an emotional ballad that helped her cruise into the finals with ease. Her stage presence and her demeanor only helped her cause.

Natasha Wilson, however, might have had the most fun of anyone that performed during the “wildcard” round. Her rendition of “I Am” by Mary J. Blige was not only entertaining, but she used basically every inch of the stage space to show that she was having the time of her life.

And then there were those who took chances.

Jessica Munoz broke the R&B and country trend when she opted for Linkin Park’s “Shadow of the Day” – a softer track for the band that made their name in the rock/rap crossover movement and exploded with the smash-up album “Collision Course” where they teamed up with Jay-Z on some of their most popular songs.

Rather than the hardcore sound that the group is known for, “Shadow of the Day” sounds more like something you’d hear off of an early U2 record, and Munoz was excellent in making her rendition sound just like something that an early Bono would have performed himself.

Despite the break from the norm, Munoz also earned a lot in the finals.

The last finals slot went to the last performer of the evening – who happened to have the biggest rooting section – in Jill Hudson who stepped up the tempo with Taylor Swift’s “I Lie” in a performance that was the perfect way to cap off the night of Idol performers.

So starting next Wednesday, 12 Idol contestants will perform each week with the Junior Idol contestants right alongside for what will surely be the most important part of the competition. A singer will be eliminated each week until the final grouping is paired and cumulative points are kept for the final few weeks.

Junior Idol contestants will follow a different route.

If you aren’t doing anything on Wednesday nights at 7 p.m., Chez Shari has graciously awarded Manteca Idol use of their facility to help raise money for the Boys and Girls Club – giving people a chance to see some of the best young talent that Manteca has to offer for only $5 a week.

Saying that it’s a bargain would be an understatement, especially given the crop of talent that will be taking the stage to jockey for the judge’s votes and ultimately a space in the following week’s event.

Hope to see you there.