Applause exploded across the auditorium of the Patchogue Theater as The Jeff Puleo Band rocked it out Saturday evening.
But this was no rock concert. Puleo, of Patchogue, and his bandmates were one of 23 local acts vying for $1,500 in prize money at the inaugural Patchogue Pizzazz Talent Search. Performers ranging in age from 18 to 82 sang, danced, beatboxed and even performed stand-up comedy for a crowd of 500 people.
“The show is awesome,” said Puleo. “I loved doing it.”
The Patchogue Pizzazz Talent Search is unique for its emphasis on adult performers competing against other adults with a range of different talents. The show was similar to the popular show “America’s Got Talent.”
“It’s fun to see people from your community perform,” said Melissa Tergesen, 26, of Babylon. “There’s a lot of hidden talent out there.”
Although there were no geographic restrictions for entrants, all 23 acts were Suffolk County residents. Several of the competitors had previously found recognition through performances at the Apollo Theater and on national talent competitions like “The X Factor.”
But most of the acts have been performing on Long Island for decades.
Michael Buchta of the Blue Spruce Cloggers has spent seven years as part of the Southern Appalachian Mountain-style dance troupe, and was excited to be able to perform in a mature setting.
“I think it’s a great idea for adults who want to perform with other adults,” said Buchta, a Centereach native. “It’s a great opportunity to be recognized and to perform.”
Competitors were judged based on their overall score rather than by category. The panel of three judges included local American Idol competitor Medford native Leah Laurenti, who made it to the Hollywood round in both 2009 and 2010 before being eliminated.
“Being a performer myself, I had a lot of fun watching everybody,” said Laurenti, 25. “I thought there was a great variety. I wish everybody could get a prize, I really do.”
But at the end of the night, only the top three acts could walk away with the prize money. Dancing group The Red Hot Mamas, The Jeff Puelo Band and beatboxer Aaron Grant Lipski each took home $500 dollars for their performances.
“There’s phenomenal talent out there,” said Susan Berner, the music director for the Patchogue Pizzazz Talent Search. “This is a beautiful venue to showcase all the talented performers in Suffolk.”