PORTLAND, Maine — They drove down from Caribou, up from Boston and flew in from Kentucky.
Gathered in the hot sun on the Maine State Pier was a crowd of hundreds with guitars clutched, makeup freshly applied and vocal chords rested, awaiting their chance for a shot at superstardom on “American Idol.”
For the first time in the hit show’s 13-year history, the Fox talent search came to Maine on Wednesday.
Ali Stauble, an event coordinator from Bangor, was ready. The 26-year-old joined her twin sister, Susie Pepper, a Portland lounge singer, and confidently approached the judges to audition.
Together the striking brunettes in high heels sang “Just Give Me a Reason” by Pink.
In no time they were headed in the right direction — left of the ‘Idol’ bus, indicating they had advanced to the next round.
“It’s pretty exciting. You never know what will happen next,” said the twins after filling out reams of paperwork. “It can only go up from here.”
The pop culture enterprise is roaming the country this summer looking for the next Kelly Clarkson, Jordin Sparks and Phillip Phillips for the show’s 14th season. By midmorning, the show’s supervising producer Robert McLeod was encouraged by the talented turnout.
“I’ve heard some good voices in line and seen some good looks so far,” he said.
He singled out Pepper, whom he heard perform earlier this week at the Embassy Suites Hotel, as a rising star. When she crooned with her sister, “I was very impressed by them,” said McLeod, who hoped 1,000 wannabe popstars would make their way to Portland to strut their stuff for the daylong call.
Performers who make the cut will audition once more for the show’s executive producers. If they pass that round, next stop is Los Angeles, where judges Jennifer Lopez, Harry Connick Jr. and Keith Urban await. One winner, who receives a recording contract, is chosen per season.
With the call for talent limited to 15- to 28-year-olds, Jennifer Clark of South Portland was giving it her all. “I’m 27, I’ve got one more year before I can no longer audition,” she said. “It’s now or never.”
Clark, who sang in the chorus in middle school, took the day off from work for this “once-in-a-lifetime experience.”
Growing up watching “American Idol” with her parents, she thought trying out would be fun. “I am hoping I’m not one of those crazy people that thinks they are awesome, but turns out to be awful.”
Time will tell.