By Weekend Editor Graham Chalmers
Picking a winner was an impossible job on a memorable Saturday night but one did eventually arrive - young Alexa Wilkinson, a thoughtful and original singer-songwriter aged just 13.
It was a tight result with runners-up Lyndsay Wells and Tribal Prints firmly in the running.
As one of the three X Factor-style judges, alongside panto favourite Tim Stedman and Stray FM’s Alex B Cann, I was even more surprised by the professionalism and quality of the acts than at the previous Big T finals.
The tone for a fantastic night of fund-raising for Harrogate Theatre’s ongoing renovation work was set by the faultless delivery of charming and ultra-slick MC Chris Clarkson, who also happens to be the dame in the theatre’s most recent, highly successful pantomime.
Thanks to witty interchange between Clarkson and Stedman, which myself and fellow judge Alex were briefly recruited into, the evening began with a swing which never stopped.
Both were giving their time for free, a sure sign of the affection and loyalty Harrogate Theatre currently inspires.
With brilliant organisation by theatre fundraisers Anne Cherry and Keith Woodward, the production was simply the best to date.
Handled with speed and precision by director Moya Prichard, the whole show had an amazingly professional feel for an event designed for amateurs.
Each of the 14 acts - not to forget excellent interval guest stars, eXcel Barbershop Quartet - deserves a review on their own. My favourite acts battling it out for cash prizes and a scholarship worth £2,500 from ACT Academy were the following: Teenage Love, a wonderful medley of dancing by singers from ACT Academy Stage School.
Solo male singer Josh Belward whose musical vocals skills were of a West End quality and who later showed up in another set of contestants - danSing.
Very young singing duo Evacuation, Liam Myles and Lucy Ireland who delivered a Paulo Nutini song with a command beyond their years.
The blue-haired, stunning singer Lyndsay Wells (with keyboard accompaniment from Angeline Bjerregaard) who made Aretha Franklin’s You Make Me Feel Like A Natural Woman totally her own.
Solo male singer George Hodgson who sang and played (on keyboards) his own self-penned, dramatic slice of thoughtful melancholy.
And the winner herself, Alexa Wilkinson whose self-written song was so good I mistook it for a cover version!
The other contestants who, in truth, were just as good as the winners, were: Belebele. Get This! Elle Coles. 14 feet Of Rhythm from Chatsworth Dance centre. Beth Rose. Penny Bowles. Tribal Prints.
Taking place in front of an audience packed all the way to the upper balcony, the event is estimated to have raised more than £6, 500 for Harrogate Theatre’s renovation.