WATCH: Semi-finalists shine on ‘Tawag ng Tanghalan’

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The first batch of “Tawag ng Tanghalan” semi-finalists didn’t hold anything back as they bid to land a spot in the grand finals of the singing competition, leaving judges and audiences in awe with a string of strong performances and on-point song choices that highlighted their signature styles.

Monday’s episode of “It’s Showtime” opened with Davao’s Dominador Alviola Jr. belting out Ray Charles’ “I Can’t Stop Loving You.” He exuded confidence (maybe a tad over, as head judge Rey Valera pointed out) during his turn on the stage as he tried to emulate Charles’ soulful and expressive voice.

“Hindi ko alam kung kailan ako ulit nag-enjoy ng ganito ka-enjoy. Iba ka talaga,” Valera told Alviola Jr. “Sumasabog ang energy mo dito sa loob ng studio. Ingat ka lang kasi napansin ko kinapos ka habang tumatagal eh. Bigay na bigay kasi eh. Alalay lang.”

Aviola’s performance was followed by similarly show-stopping one from Makati’s Rachel Gabreza, who borrowed Lani Misalucha’s powerful voice to sing “Bukas na lang Kita Mamahalin.” It was perfect, said co-judge Karla Estrada.

“Nandoon ka na. Total package na. Ang iingatan na lang natin is ‘yung um-over ka doon sa drama nung kanta. Alam mo iyong perfect na tapos lalagyan mo pa — but of course, the dynamics is perfect. Ang ganda nung rendition mo, gumawa ka nang sarili mong version which I liked,” Estrada said.

Jaime Navarro, whose mother died the day he auditioned for the singing competition, took the stage next and sang Billy Ocean’s “Suddenly.” The soulful vibe of his performance and his perfect pitch left co-judge and singer Nyoy Volante impressed.

“Ang ganda ganda ng inawit ninyo. Bagay na bagay po sa inyo. Kasi advantage talaga na iyong audition song ninyo ang kakantahin ninyo ngayon. Obvious na obvious na alam na alam mo bawat sulok ng kanta, bawat letra,”Volante said.

Mary Gidget Dela Llana, a 20-year-old college student from Laguna, then made everyone swoon over her as she serenaded with Regine Velasquez’ “Araw-Gabi.” Karylle, one of the judges, praised the youngest semi-finalist for her natural talent for “storytelling.”