Second time is the charm for 2020 ‘Dixie’s Got Talent’ winners

ST. GEORGE — The 10th finale of “Dixie’s Got Talent” had brothers and sisters, mothers and daughters and dance crews take the stage Thursday night and included performers as old as 84 years old and those just a little older than 8.

Adult contestant Connor Lee belts out Giacomo Puccini’s “Nessun Dorma” at the 2020 finale of Dixie’s Got Talent at Cox Auditorium in St. George, Utah, Jan. 16, 2020 | Photo by Chris Reed, St. George News

But the winners Thursday night at Dixie State’s Cox Auditorium ended up being those who didn’t give up on their talent, even if they had already tried and failed to win the competition.

Connor Lee was a finalist in 2015 for the annual talent competition as part of a tap duo. He didn’t dance his way to fame that night, but he didn’t dance his way to victory this year either – he sang his way to victory.

The high notes of Lee’s performance of Giacomo Puccini’s “Nessun Dorma” were only eclipsed by one of the loudest ovations of the night. And in the end, the audience and judges selected Lee as the top adult performer of the night. Not bad for a tap dancer converted into an opera singer.

“It was a big transformation, but I fell in love with it,” Lee said. “It’s such a personal art form. There’s not one right way to opera.”

But for Lee, it didn’t go right at first. He went to St. George’s Lisa Seegmiller Studios, where 2016 youth winner Marlie Root also trained. Lee said Seegmiller, who won a Tony Award in 2003 for performing Puccini’s “La bohème,” was not impressed.

The pride of Pine View High School, youth dance troupe PitCrew, shows off their moves at the 2020 finale of Dixie’s Got Talent at Cox Auditorium in St. George, Utah, Jan. 16, 2020 | Photo by Chris Reed, St. George News

“I was the least likely opera singer. She said I was really bad,” Lee said. But now, he’s good enough to not only have won Dixie’s Got Talent but got to spend last summer in an opera program in Verona, Italy, and got a callback to join the master’s program at the Boston Conservatory in a few weeks.

Lee, who has also performed with the St. George Musical Theater, was one of 10 acts in the adult category, along with 10 youth performances by those 17 or under. Half of each contestant’s final score was from a seven-judge panel, and half was determined by a vote of the audience through their cell phones and a six-digit number that could only be used once in their program.

The youth winner was also a second-time Dixie’s Got Talent finalist.

Shayli Fuller was part of the 2018 finale, using Andra Day’s hit “Rise Up” to reach it. Two years later, the 16-year-old Tuacahn High School for the Arts student moved the song to the finale. Her multitasking singing while navigating the ivories of a grand piano won over the judges and crowd.

“I really feel the crowd’s energy,” Fuller said. “It’s crazy fun.”

The Vandermyde brothers, Zach and Ashton, sing “Into the Unknown” from “Frozen 2” at the 2020 finale of Dixie’s Got Talent at Cox Auditorium in St. George, Utah, Jan. 16, 2020 | Photo by Chris Reed, St. George News

For winning their categories, Lee and Fuller each won $500 and also will be offered a travel stipend if they want to audition for “America’s Got Talent.” The runners-up received $250.

Drue Allred, who was also a finalist in the 2017 Dixie’s Got Talent final, earned runner-up in the youth division by making a violin rock with an AC/DC, White Stripes arrangement.

Adult runner-up Amy Butts had the most unique performance of the night, performing an aerial dance about 30 feet above the stage, drawing gasps and shrieks from the crowd. As they peered up, what the audience didn’t know was that the higher Butts was, the more comfortable she became in her performance.

“I have more clearance for my drop,” the 23-year-old Dixie State dental student said. “The higher I go, the safer I feel.”

Check below for video highlights from each of the performances at the 2020 Dixie’s Got Talent Finale, followed by a photo gallery. Click on photo to enlarge it, then use your left-right arrow keys to cycle through the gallery.

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2020, all rights reserved.

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