Arts & Entertainment

Kennewick High grad wins big stage competition in L.A.

Kids never outgrow the need to call home when something great happens.

Especially when it means a captured crown at the Next Great Stage Star 2010 Competition in Los Angeles this week.

The winner was Tri-City native Janet Krupin, a 2006 Kennewick High School graduate. And the first thing she did was call her mom — from the stage.

“It’s true,” Krupin said. “I had spoken to my mom and dad just before I sang the last (song) to tell them I made it to the final 5. So, in the thrill of the moment, I walked back on stage with my cell phone in my hand.

“Then when I thought we were finished, I turned around to walk back off stage and hit speed dial to call my parents and tell them.”

Just then Michael Sterling, the producer of the competition and the evening’s emcee, called her back to center stage, cell phone still to her ear.

“He asked where I thought I was going, and I just blurted out, ‘I have to call my mom!’ ” she said, triggering a roar of laughter from the audience.

That’s when Sterling asked Krupin to put the conversation with Nancy and Paul Krupin on speaker phone.“Mama, I won!” Krupin cried, knowing full well her parents were sitting in a Tri-City theater watching Avatar, trying to avoid waiting nervously at home.

Though her mother tried to keep her voice down in the darkened theater, the hushed reply came across amplified over the audio system at the L.A. auditorium for everyone to hear.

“It was so funny because she’s speaking very quietly and says, ‘Omigod ... OK ... I’ll call you back,” Krupin said. “Then click, she hung up.”

Krupin’s final song in the contest was How Lucky Can You Get from Funny Lady. Her performance impressed the 10-judge panel as well as the audience, which also had a hand in the voting, according to magazine.

The win opens doors to Hollywood and Broadway agents, producers and casting directors looking for young hopefuls dreaming of being actors.

Krupin competed against 17 other actors in the six-week event. They were whittled down to five finalists.

Though Krupin came out on top at the competition, all the finalists will be featured at the popular L.A. nightclub Sterling’s Upstairs at Vitello’s Italian restaurant in May.

Krupin also won $1,000. It’s been a joyful ride for the 22-year-old, who spent several years in starring roles for the Academy of Children’s Theatre productions as well as for Richland Light Opera.

“Janet works really hard at doing what she loves to do best,” said her dad, Paul. “She’s focused and committed and has a dedication and drive that makes her an asset to anyone she works with. It’s thrilling to watch her grow and see her take more steps and achieve recognition for her talent in her chosen field.”

He said, “I am also thrilled because she still treats it like a job and approaches what she does as a professional. She told me (before her final performance) it’s not just about winning, it’s about the work and making other people succeed at what they are trying to do and feel good about it. That’s a lesson that I will think about a lot myself.”

Linda Hoffman, executive director of the Academy of Children's Theatre, has her own voice of pride for Janet Krupin.

"I'm really not surprised by Janet's success in this competition. Since she was in 1st grade, Janet knew she wanted to act and she's worked hard to make that a reality. Janet is a believer; she believes there's a way to achieve her goals and she isn't afraid to give it her all," Hoffman said. "I'll never forget Janet, as a second grader, in our first production of A Christmas Carol. (Incidently, with Santino Fontana) She was fearless. And her beautiful, pure voice awed the audience. I knew she would achieve whatever she put her mind to."

Janet Krupin is also pursuing degrees in cinematic arts and critical studies, along with double minors in musical theater and philosophy at the University of Southern California.

“I like working hard and staying focused,” she said. “And I love theater. But I had a lot to learn when I moved down here. I went from a small pond to a very big pond, and that can be humbling.”

Winning the stage star competition is like advancing on the chess board, and she’s ready for her next move, she said.

“A dear friend asked me if all this was just a little bit scary,” Krupin said. “I don’t think I find it scary. I was scared when I got on the plane to leave home. I was scared when I realized I needed to improve. I was scared when I tried my hand for the first, second, third ... 14th, 15th, 16th time in one of the biggest ponds a fish could find. But I keep finding the best medicine for the fear is work. If I get scared, I just work harder.”

-- Dori O’Neal: 582-1514;