The Skirball Center for the Performing Arts was packed for NYU’s 13th annual UltraViolet Live on Thursday night. The show, which was put together by the university’s Inter-Residence Hall Council, is the final round of NYU’s annual talent competition. The 15 acts were each winners of preliminary talent contests held by all NYU residence halls, the Commuter Student Council, NYU Abu Dhabi, NYU Shanghai or the Inter-Greek Council.
Nikki Blonsky, star of 2007 film “Hairspray,” hosted the show, and was accompanied on stage by four celebrity judges; Selenis Leyva of “Orange is the New Black,” Katya Zamolodchikova of “RuPaul’s Drag Race”, Mara Wilson of “Matilda” and Leslie Jones of “Saturday Night Live.”
The grand prize winner of $1,000 was Third North representative and freshman Tisch drama major Issac Lopez who covered the song “I Am Adolfo.” Lopez’s incredible voice, humor and acting skills got him a standing ovation from the crowd and numerous compliments from the judges and host.
“It was such a surreal experience,” Lopez said. “I keep thinking about how Leslie told me I was good at comedy, I got to hug all the judges, Nikki told me backstage that I’m gonna be on Broadway, I’m just so overwhelmed.”
Leyva commented that picking a winner wasn’t easy for the judges.
“The hardest thing was picking one out of so many talented people,” Leyva said. “I shouldn’t be surprised — it’s NYU.”
There were also three additional category winners, each of whom received $500. Brooklyn’s Michael Jide, whose original rap song had the whole crowd cheering and laughing, received the Audience’s Choice Award.
“You have the flow, you had the audience, you were saying some real lyrics,” Jones told Jide. “Rap might need to be your career.”
Rubin Hall’s Donna Gary, whose powerful poem captivated the attention of everybody in the theater, won Best Variety Performance and moved the judges. Levya was especially impacted by her performance and even got up to hug Gary after, telling her to never stop writing.
The last category, Best Vocal performance, went to Abu Dhabi’s Keria Simmons, whose original song impressed the judges.
“That’s the voice I want to hear when I’m walking into heaven,” Jones said.
Other acts included Hayden freshman Nick Cosaboom’s conga solo piece, during which he expertly drummed on five conga drums, as well as Ying Cao’s unique poi performance, which consisted of her dancing in the dark with light sticks creating streaks of colorful light.
Broome contestant Crystal Valentine’s spoken word poem which was accompanied by a back-up singer, also received a standing ovation from the crowd and praise from the judges.
“My favorite part was watching all of the performers enjoy their time on stage,” Blonsky said. “And I couldn’t be more excited about Issac Lopez winning. I would be honored to be his leading lady in a musical, he’s unbelievable.”
A version of this article appeared in the Feb. 16th print edition. Email Catalina Gonella at [email protected]