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Posted on Thu, Jan 10, 2013 : 8:36 a.m.

Pioneer FutureStars talent competition keeps getting bigger

By Jenn McKee

“American Idol” is gearing up for its 12th season, which kicks off next week; yet while the former ratings juggernaut has been on the wane, the annual local student talent show it inspired - Pioneer Theatre Guild’s FutureStars - seems to only be growing each year in popularity.


The cast of last year's FutureStars

Chris Asadian | file photo

So much so, in fact, that PTG producer Susan Hurwitz estimates that they had to turn away 1,000 people at the door last year on finals night. Though PTG had sold all the advance tickets that were available through PTG’s website, the organization “had withheld 250 tickets at the door,” Hurwitz explained. “We had no idea there would be all these people.”

This will be FutureStars’ 11th edition, having left its humble beginnings far behind.

“The first year, shortly after ‘American Idol’ premiered, we thought it would be fun to do a talent show,” said Hurwitz. “We started out with four shows on one weekend. There was an overall winner, kind of, … and it was in the Little Theater, which has a capacity of about 230. But the show started growing fairly quickly, and we moved the final show into (1,600-capacity) Schreiber Auditorium the following year.”

Soon all the preliminary competitions, as well as the finals, were scheduled in Schreiber, and in 2008, PTG opened the competition up to all students in the AAPS system.

“Kids who don’t know each other at first are getting to know each other through this very intense week of rehearsals,” said Hurwitz. “The audience feels all of that energy from the cast. And that might be why it’s such a fun event.”

Performers sing, dance, rap and more, in groups or solo, and a panel of judges that include teachers, alumni and local celebrities will determine, with the audience, which three numbers from each show will continue on to the finals, where one performer will be named FutureStar 2013.


FutureStars 2013

  • What: Ann Arbor high school students will showcase their talents (singing, dancing, rapping, etc.) over the course of four preliminary shows, happening on two nights this weekend. Finalists from each prelim will compete to be FutureStar 2013 on January 19.
  • Where: Pioneer High School's Schreiber Auditorium, 601 W. Stadium in Ann Arbor.
  • When: Themed preliminary shows are Friday, January 11 at 7 ("Dance Fever") and 9:30 p.m. ("British Beat," students only); and Saturday, January 12 at 7 ("Fifty Years of Soul") and 9:30 p.m. ("MyTunes NOW," students only). The finals competition happens Saturday, January 19 at 7:30 p.m.
  • How much: $7 for all prelims, $10 (students and seniors) and $15 (adults) for the finals competition. Tickets available at Tickets for each preliminary competition will also be available at the door. Tickets for the finals competition will not be available at the door, but plans to livestream the finals are underway. Check the PTG website for updates and details.
This year’s FutureStars, directed by PHS grad and current U-M musical theater student Ashley Park, consists of four themed, preliminary competitions, and they all happen this weekend: “Dance Fever” on Friday, January 11 at 7 p.m.; “British Beat” on Friday, January 11 at 9:30 p.m. (student only show); “50 Years of Soul” on Saturday, January 12 at 7 p.m.; and “MyTunes NOW” on Saturday, January 12 at 9:30 p.m. (student only show). Tickets for these performances are $7, available at, or at the door one hour before each performance.

The FutureStars final competition happens Saturday, January 19 at 7:30 p.m.; tickets are $15 for adults, $10 for students and seniors, and available at No tickets will be sold at the door for this year’s finals competition, but organizers are hoping to livestream it. Check with PTG's website for updates and details in the coming days.

Hurwitz believes that part of the reason FutureStars has endured, and grown in popularity, is the ownership the students feel toward the show, thanks to the student-only performances.

“The very first year, 2003, … it was clear that we had a problem getting students to come out and see what (PTG) did,” said Hurwitz. “So we made the late shows students only, and I was very strict about it. … And they were the best audiences. They were so supportive of the people on stage. In those early years, the talent level was not what it is now, but … if someone forgot the words, they’d cheer them on. … I had no idea what to expect at the first one. I thought there might be hissing or hazing. But there was nothing but positive support.”

Of course, coming on the heels of the holidays, and organizing scores of students and numbers in just five days, is no small feat.

“There’s something very bonding about it,” said Hurwitz. “About a third of the kids are new every year, maybe more, and they’re doing something new. It’s the first time some of these kids have done something like this. You feel like you’ve scaled a mountain, and you have. … It’s hard for me to believe how well the shows always come together.”

Jenn McKee is the entertainment digital journalist for Reach her at or 734-623-2546, and follow her on Twitter @jennmckee.



Fri, Jan 11, 2013 : 6:46 p.m.

This is like the hi school version of America's Got Talent. They start in October, I think, and then continue until this. It is a lot of fun. Need to see this one this year. Go if you want some fun.