By Rena Carman
The battle of the final seven in Rider’s fourth season of R Factor went down in the BLC Theater on Oct. 4.
The evening opened with an introduction of the judges and video clips about the contestants.
First on stage was freshman global supply chain management major Matthew Esposito, for Team Dani, with an acoustic guitar. The crowd was left to swoon after his mash up of Elvis’ “Can’t Help Falling in Love with You” into “Iris” by the Goo Goo Dolls. Team Dani’s second contestant, junior popular music culture major Anthony Washington, performed “Halo” by Beyoncé and had the crowd singing along. However, he did not make it to the final round.
The next performance got the crowd to its feet when freshman history major Christine Lam, for Team Donte, sang “Valerie” by Amy Winehouse. The song was fun and upbeat compared to the first two performances and it got the audience to dance along with Lam as she had fun onstage. Team Donte’s second contestant, freshman elementary education major Victoria Panagos, sang Demi Lovato’s “Nightingale,” which fit her melodic voice.
Team Jeff’s junior musical theater major Milika Griffiths’ performance of “If I Were A Boy” by Beyoncé received a standing ovation from both the audience and some of the judges. Freshman secondary education major, Davia Echols, also for Team Jeff, sang Jackson 5’s “Who’s Loving You” and had the audience swaying along. Unfortunately, she did not advance to the final round.
Nick Barbati’s second finalist, senior musical theater major Peter Petrino, could not perform that night, so sophomore arts administration major Llundon Lawson carried Nick’s team. And carry it he did, with a stunning piano performance of “Clarity” by Zedd, receiving a standing ovation.
The two finalists chosen from the audience votes were Esposito and Griffiths. The judges had to choose between Lam, Panagos and Lawson. On a 3 to 1 vote, Lawson proceeded to the final round.
Even though only one freshman made it to the final round, the audience was still impressed by the incredible performances of such young talent.
“I can’t believe they’re only freshmen,” Eric Chan, a sophomore graphic design major, said. “To have a voice like that with little professional experience is amazing.”
After receiving a ukulele from an audience member, Esposito plucked his way through a mash up of Neil Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World,” Milky Chance’s “Stolen Dance,” Twenty One Pilots’ “House of Gold,” Beyonce’s “Drunk in Love” and “Somewhere over the Rainbow.” He then took a turn and started to sing DJ Khaled’s “All I Do is Win” for his second act.
Griffiths appeared onstage in a beautiful red gown and wowed the crowd once again with “Wicked Games” by Chris Isaak.
Lawson had another stunning performance with his rendition of “Help” by Simone Battle, but this time without the piano accompaniment.
Barbati was very impressed with his mentee’s work.
“Llundon is without question the most talented of any of the contestants I’ve had the chance to mentor,” he said. “His performances were breathtakingly beautiful and in my opinion were two of the best performances in the history of the competition.”
While the audience texted in their votes for the winner, Dani Knights and Jeff Gutt sang a duet. Then the votes were in.
Llundon Lawson was announced to be in third place.
After a drum roll and a dramatic pause, Milika Griffiths, of Team Jeff, was declared the winner of R Factor 2014.
“As the creator of the show, it’s always been my hope that the winner is a spectacular talent along with a cast of talented students that reflect the very best of our campus,” said Barbati. “We absolutely achieved that. I adore Milika and she absolutely earned her win. I would also like to mention, it was, by far, the best R Factor season.”
Printed in the 10/8/14 edition