Five-year-old Elaine Emme of Colesville, dressed in the bright red "Annie" outfit she got for Halloween, calmly stared straight at the television camera and, on cue, burst out singing "Tomorrow" from the hit Broadway musical "Annie."
But 40-year-old guitarist John Gamage of Gaithersburg, who has performed dozens of times, was a bit jittery as he took his turn in front of the camera to sing "Leader of the Band." "You're always a little bit nervous," noted the Ridgeview Junior High School teacher.
The two were among 20 area residents who, at a taping last week of a new variety show for Montgomery County's cable television system, realized their dreams of brief television stardom or a chance to show off their hobbies of singing, tap dancing, baton twirling, clowning, juggling, magic or muscianship.
Initially, only the 3,100 subscribers of Montgomery County Cablevision in Gaithersburg will be able to watch the program, "Spotlight on Show-Offs." (The show will debut at 6 p.m. Feb. 16 on Channel 12.) But the producers hope the shows will be rebroadcast once Tribune-United Cable of Montgomery expands service throughout the county.
"We feel this will be entertaining for the viewers," said Jayne Jacobs of Germantown, a coproducer of the program. "There are no other opportunities like this for people in the area. There are people who watch television and might say they can do that just as well, and this gives them courage to come out and do it."
Jacobs, a public relations writer for Jewish Humanities of Greater Washington, and coproducer John Farrow of Brookeville, a sales manager for the General Electric Corp. and a screenplay writer, said they want to turn the program into a bi-weekly production. In two tapings at Gaithersburg High School's auditorium, they already have enough acts for four half-hour shows. Forty to 50 more persons have asked to appear on future shows.
The 20 performers at last week's taping learned of the program through newspapers or friends. Elaine was suggested for the show by her ballet and tap dance teacher.
Standing on the auditorium's stage under the glare of the television lights, Elaine waited calmly as the cameramen and Farrow positioned her. Even after audio difficulties meant she had to sing the song over twice, she remained unflustered.
"I was just feeling wonderful," she said afterwards between bites of a peanut butter sandwich. "I don't know why, but I just like to do it."
"I think she wasn't scared because she's too young to know to be nervous," said her mother, Patti Emme. She added that Elaine probably wasn't bothered by the cameras and microphones because she's used to the family's video camera and recorder at home.
Elaine said she chose the "Annie" skit because of her fondness for the play and movie. "They have an 'Annie' group at her school, and they play 'Annie' all day," her mother noted. "She sings it all the time at home."
Elaine's success at the taping hasn't created visions of Hollywood and film contracts. "This was more or less just a chance for her to try something new," Patti Emme said.
Some of the actors were less pleased with their performance. Dawn Hill, 17, of Germantown was disappointed she dropped batons during her twirling act. "I did a lot better at the rehearsal," she said.
Hill, who performed at half-time during football games at Seneca Valley High School, where she is a senior, blamed the fumbles partly on her nervousness at appearing on television for the first time. "The lights bothered me; they reflected off of the batons," she added.
But Hill, 1982 Maryland intermediate solo champion for twirlers age 16 to 20, got a chance for a second take and was happier with it. "I felt more relaxed about it. I was more comfortable about that one than the earlier one," she said.
Susan Crowe, 17, of Damascus lost her voice while singing "Out Here on My Own" from the film "Fame," although she was able to recover enough to finish the taping.
"I'm embarrassed," the Damascus High School senior said afterwards. "I do events all the time and don't lose my voice, but tonight I did."
Like many of the performers, Crowe came to the taping partly for "a little exposure" but "more for the fun" of being on television.
"TV makes you more awkward," she said. "I'm used to walking around the stage in musicals, but this is very fixed. You stand there in front of the camera. You're not free to move around."
Robin Amann, 32, of Brookeville, also was excited about appearing on television. A teacher at Bel Pre Elementary School, she sang "There's No Business Like Show Business" and, at an earlier taping, "The Man Who Got Away."
"I've lived in this area all my life, and it would be kind of nice to have someone watching TV say, 'Hey, I went to school with her.' "
Most of the actors have shown off their talents before, at parties, weddings, banquets and high school or college productions.
Gail Scott-Parizer, 31, a guidance counselor at Calverton Elementary School in Prince George's County, was a drama minor at the University of Maryland. "I'm used to seeing myself on TV . . . . But it's hard getting used to. I always giggle because I don't think I look like myself," she said.
She and her husband, Michael Parizer, 31, a Falls Church teacher, sang "The Last Time I Felt Like This." They said they've been performing at private affairs since they met in 1976.
Although some performers were nervous, Fred (Jellybean) Forrest, 56, of Bethesda took the taping in stride. He said he started in show business at age 5, and since then has done vaudeville and burlesque and has appeared on television as a comedian.
Forrest, owner of Mister Vinyl in Bethesda, teamed with Elaine (Chuckles) Prego, 50, of Hyattsville, for a clown routine.
Their appearance was "mostly just for tricks," he said. "As clowns we like clowning. Guys who collect stamps are called philatelists. Guys who collect coins are called numismatists. Guys who collect smiles, you call them clowns."
The performers were glad to be able to appear on television. Juggler Harris Povich, 21, a business major at the University of Maryland, said: "It gives a lot of people in the community a chance to come out and perform. You can't all perform on Broadway."
He said he came "to get a little exposure, a little practice." He juggled tennis balls, basketballs, pins and apples, taking bites out of each apple as they passed through his hands.
Gamage, who often sings "folk-country-easy listening-all mixed together," said the variety show would be his first television appearance. "It's good to have such an avenue" for local residents, he said.
Although most of the performers don't get Cablevision, Jacobs said, they'll get a chance to see the edited show, with laugh and applause tracks and interviews spliced in, at a special screening next month.