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The stage is set for Manteca Idol 2009
Galeeza Idolyantes rocked the stage with her high-tempo moves that impressed the judges enough to push her through to the finals. - photo by JASON CAMPBELL


• WHAT: Manteca Idol
• WHEN: Wednesdays at 7 p.m.
• WHERE: Chez Shari at Manteca Golf Course
• MORE INFO: Call the Boys & Girls Club at 239-KIDS

The field of finalists for Manteca Idol is now set in stone.

Wednesday night the panel of judges threw in a surprise curve when they allotted another finalist space that will bring the total to 13 – meaning that four of the nine people competing in the night’s Wild Card round would be given a chance to go up against the competition’s best.

Just like every year, the competition gets stiffer each and every week once the finals begin. It makes me glad that I’m not the one in charge of figuring out who gets to move on and who gets to go home.

More than once I’ve sat there and scratched my head during the tabulations because I couldn’t make a clear-cut decision on who I thought the weak-link actually was.

But on Wednesday night – the do-or-die endeavor for the Idol hopefuls that got a second chance to make their way into the finals – saw some of the singers break out of their typical performance styles and try something different. That helped make it not only entertaining, but memorable.

While I figured that Trisha Checketts would have easily made the finals when her name appeared on the performance list for the second week, I was shocked when she was relegated to the Wild Card round after making several deep runs in previous years.

While she normally picks the upbeat tracks, she absolutely nailed Colbie Caillat’s “Magic” – hitting all of the melodic chords and seeming even more comfortable without the high energy moves that typically make up her stage persona.

Galeeza Idolyantes, however, opted for Christina DeBarge’s high-energy “Goodbye” that got the entire crowd clapping along as she moved around the stage like a seasoned veteran. It was a  performance that let everyone else in the room know that she was going to be one of those who wasn’t go away without a fight.

And the other two finalists – Lady Liz and Dawn Thomas – used music and persona from another era to get their card punched for the Final 13.

Lady Liz was sensational with her rendition of Aretha Franklin’s “You Make Me Feel Like A Natural Woman” – a song that will always hold a special place in my heart after reigning Manteca Idol Christine Acosta sang it a cappella last year when her CD wouldn’t play the backing track.

And Thomas took Carrie Underwood’s “I Told You So” and blended it together with an approach that was more reminiscent of Loretta Lynn. It converged two different generations of country music into one amazing performance that helps provide a broad spectrum of final contestants.

So, you ask, who is it that’ll be battling it out between now and November?

Wednesday’s Wild Card winners will join the cast of Casey Rico, Mickey Lee, Brieanne Jansen, Shellie Hoyt, Amanda Fleig, Brian Rodrigues, Judi Hoagland, Robyn Glover, and Katelyn Johnson.

Junior Idol finalists – who will be eligible for their own crown – include Annie Banks, Lizzy Acosta, Hannah Goe, Danielle Osoteo, Laci Rakestraw, Dreama Dias, Kaylie Dotson, Larissa McElroy, and Lucia Barragan.

Former Manteca Idol Jessica Ochoa will be the guest judge for the first finals week performances.

So if you’re trying to find something fun to do to break up the monotony of a work week, it’s only $5 to see some of the best singers in town and to help the Boys and Girls Club at the same time.

It’s a deal you can’t beat.

And I’m more than certain that this final group of 13 is going to make each and every week entertaining.