International panel seeks ‘Top Talent’

By Korea Herald
  • Published : May 21, 2013 - 20:12
  • Updated : May 21, 2013 - 20:13

A Seoul audition competition is giving performers the chance to show what they can do, and one lucky winner a performing slot at a major festival.

“Top Talent” is a talent competition that follows the format of familiar TV audition shows such as “Superstar K,” but in English. Performers of all stripes will get to strut their stuff in front of a live audience and a panel of four judges.

It has been a long time in the making. C.J. Allen had first tried to launch the project two years ago with presenting from Elliott Ashby and additional judging from comedian Sam Hammington, and TV personality Bronwyn Mullen, but the schedules didn’t work out.

“It just didn’t feel like the right time,” said Allen.

At the time, they had also sought a fourth, female judge in vain. But they have now found one in Punita Bajaj, a singer who became a finalist on TV talent show “Star Audition.”

“Punita has gone through the audition process herself and has an idea of what the people are going to be going through,” Allen said of one of the qualities that made her a strong addition.

Allen said he has used the intervening time to get more familiar with the performers, particularly bands, that are active in Korea, setting up Seconds2Impact, a promoter of concerts and other entertainment.

He said he thought that bands had diversified in the intervening time, with more being a mix of Koreans and expats rather than one or the other.

“The bands are more multicultural than they were two years ago, they have expats and Koreans. So that was a huge influence to not want to make it only for expats,” he said.

“And there are quite a few acts that are English-speaking Korean acts,” he continued. “That was a surprise because there’s often that hesitation on Koreans’ part that their English might not be good enough, or whatever the case may be, but it’s been the opposite.”
From left to right, “Top Talent” judge Punita Bajaj host Elliott Ashby and judges Sam Hammington, Bronwyn Mullen and C.J. Allen. (Seconds2Impact)

The judges have also enjoyed success in that intervening time, building their names. Allen thinks this adds some credibility to the event, but said they weren’t the only attraction for the entrants.

“It’s helped to get Top Talent recognized, but I don’t think that is the motivation for people to register,” he said.

But many are registering, so much so that the number of audition slots has been widened to 100 from the original 60.

Allen hopes people are applying for the chance to get some exposure and win the main prize. Although there is 1 million won available to the winner, the main prize is a chance to perform at the Green Groove Festival at Daecheon Beach, South Chungcheong Province, in September.

And it’s this that has the judges under pressure to find the right act.

“They are going to represent an extension of us, essentially,” he said.

The winners will be chosen in a three-stage process. All acts will get a short audition on June 29, with the best returning for call-back performances on June 30. The best eight acts will then go through to the final the following weekend.

“I’m nervous about judging. I really am. Because I know that there are going to be good quality people that are coming in there and genuinely want to do it, but are going to miss out at the call back stage,” said Allen.

The slots for the auditions are filled on a first-come first-served basis, which means there will be no entertainingly disastrous entries that can easily be dismissed.

“There’s no duds thrown into the mix that you can just say no to,” said Allen.

The competition is open to all comers, as long as they can perform in English, including musicians, comedians and magic acts. Allen said that each judge had their own type of performance ― impressionists, for example ― that they would really like to see.

So what kind of act does Allen hope will prevail? He has unconventional tastes, but knows that in the end it will be a group decision.

“For me, I would like to see, in my mind I’m imagining, the guy who comes in with an elastic band and plays chopsticks on his teeth,” he says. “That’s what I like to see. I’m more of a novelty, variety act kind of guy. But I know the other judges have their own ideas over what they’d like to see.”

The first round of competition takes place at Haechi Hall at the Seoul Global Culture & Tourism Center in Myeong-dong.

Registration to enter Top Talent is open online at until May 31. Details of audience admission, which will be free, are to be announced.

By Paul Kerry (