MIDDLEBURY — The lights of the Town Hall Theater shone bright on the 16 acts of the Middlebury’s Got Talent show this past Saturday and Sunday.
The performers sang, danced and strummed their way through the show, each act building the audience’s enthusiasm.
On Sunday afternoon, Tony Bates commented on his place in the show as the lone comedy act. “So you know, I’m the only act this afternoon without music. I don’t sing, I don’t play an instrument, I’m not a sexy tap dancer,” he said. “Well, I’m not a tap dancer,” he added, to a shout of laughter from the audience.
Soon after his act, students of the McFadden School of Irish Dance took the stage, the four young performers tapping their way through the act. Eleven-year-old Bailey Sherwin of Monkton gave an energetic performance of “Who Will I Be,” a song from the Disney Channel movie “Camp Rock.” And Kevin Brisson, baseball cap pushed low over his face, performed a song he wrote.
“The way we will decide the winner is by your applause,” said Town Hall Theater Director Doug Anderson in his introduction to the show. “So if you really like an act, clap.”
He went on to display the prize: a canned ham.
If there was any doubt who was in the lead throughout the show, it was gone after Rob Demic of Bristol took the stage to sing and tap dance. His act was followed by tremendous applause.
Demic survived a fall from the top of a downtown Middlebury building in June 2008, and, among numerous injuries, sustained serious damage to his right leg. Declining the option to amputate, Demic regained his ability to walk faster than anyone could have predicted. Now he walks with a limp, his right leg decidedly stiff, but this weekend he was up on stage, tapping away.
“I call this leg thumper,” he said with a chuckle as he took the stage.
And then Demic performed the Frank Sinatra song “That’s Life.”
“Some people get their kicks, stompin’ on a dream. But I don’t let it, let it get me down,” Demic sang, as his brother, John Demic, accompanied him on piano.
“I thought it would be great to do because it’s perfectly apropos, and it’s in my vocal range,” he said. “If I have any messages left to give, then getting up and singing ‘That’s Life’ is a good message.”
Demic’s performance was, in part, a thank you to everyone in the community who has been so supportive to him over the past year. But it was also a personal goal for him to work toward.
“I was looking for something to do,” he said. “I made a commitment, said this is what I’m going to do, and I had to make it happen.”
Getting back into tap dancing wasn’t easy. Demic’s first practices were short because dancing was painful and made his foot swell. But as the show approached, he knew he had to be practicing more.
“The pain is less relevant than what you do,” he said. “It becomes secondary.”
And so his act took shape. He knew the song, and every day he was able to do more moves and make more sounds with his right foot.
On Saturday night he had the jitters, but on Sunday the nerves and the timing difficulties were gone, and his happiness at being back on stage was clear.
Still, Demic doesn’t foresee a return to show business in the same way as before the accident.
“I’ve been headed that way as I’ve gotten older. But I’m really looking for a sort of swan song performance,” he said.
Ideally, he would like to do one more role. After that, he wants to pursue other areas of theater. He has been directing productions at Vergennes Union High School for several years, and he would like to direct for the Middlebury Community Players. But he is also writing a play and hoping to find a place to stage it.
And his trophy, the canned ham?
“My wife put it in the food closet, but I said ‘we’re not eating it. It’s going to go in the trophy case,’” he joked.