Singing up a storm: Hall of Justice readies for Region Idol
The former Lake County Criminal Court building at 220 S. Main St. has reverberated with excitement this year.
While in Crown Point to film "Public Enemies," Johnny Depp stopped by a section of the structure that is now used as a banquet hall.
"He ate directly under the chandelier in the middle of the room -- just sat at a big, round table," said Phil Struebig, who, along with his wife, Joi, owns the building.
The cinematic superstar dined in what is called the Hall of Justice -- a support area during the recent filming. Actors, crew, wardrobe and makeup wound up there.
The Hall of Justice also happens to be the home of the fourth annual Region Idol competition.
With auditions tonight and the start of the actual contest next Friday, Region Idol is based in a building that may still be radiating show-biz vibes from the shooting for the Universal Studios release.
Crown Point's Hall of Justice boasts even more buzz: John Dillinger -- who's played by Depp in the movie -- was arraigned there in 1934. The old county jail where Dillinger escaped from is next door.
Those competing this year in Region Idol are hoping to make their own bit of noise by doing well in the singing contest that's based on Fox's wildly popular "American Idol."
The trio of judges for Region Idol is intended to mimic the television panel -- Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul and Randy Jackson.
Returning this year will be veteran judges Tracy Payne and Marc Malone, both of Crown Point. They'll be joined by new Region Idol judge Vince Galbiati, president of the Northwest Indiana Forum.
Galbiati realizes contestants have their hearts in it.
"They're taking this seriously," he said. "I will be taking it with equal seriousness."
The judges have seasoned performers to review for the '08 edition. That's because some contestants who did well last year plan to return.
"We have numerous finalists that have signed up again for this year, so the talent's gonna be top-of-theline," said Struebig, who directs the contest, while his wife serves as producer.
New in 2008 is the OK for an entrant to use a single musical instrument like guitar or harmonica.
"We hadn't allowed that prior to this time, but now they can," Struebig, a Crown Point resident, said.
Self-confidence can be built by competing in Region Idol, said Erika Scheeringa, public and community relations manager for the Lake County Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Watching contestants is also intriguing, she said.
"People have their favorites; they like to kind of follow their story," Scheeringa noted. "So you get a little piece of what they're like, where they come from and kind of what they do."
Proceeds from the contest benefit the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, Indiana chapter.
A Top Male Vocalist and Top Female Vocalist will be named. An overall winner will be crowned Region Idol on the final night of the competition, slated for Friday, May 23.
Contact Bob Kostanczuk at 648-3144 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Region Idol rundown
Where: Hall of Justice, 220 S. Main St., Crown Point
When: The competition runs consecutive Fridays from April 11 through May 23. Show time is 7 p.m.
Admission: $5 for those watching auditions and nights of competition, but $10 for the final night. Larger donations are also accepted.
Charity: Proceeds benefit the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, Indiana chapter.
At stake: More than $2,000 in cash and prizes will be awarded.
Auditions: 7 p.m. tonight at the Hall of Justice
Deadline extended: Those wishing to test their talent will have more time to sign up. Entries will now be accepted through Thursday. The entry fee is $25. Contestants must be at least 21 years old. More details: www.RegionIdol.com or 661-1811.
Region Idol theme nights
The music performed by contestants will vary; here's the tentative schedule.
April 11: Singer's choice
April 18: Country
April 25: '70s disco
May 2: '80s pop
May 9: Rock 'n' roll
May 16: Motown sound
May 23: Two different themes -- Rat Pack (Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr.) and singer's choice