Andover Townsman, Andover, MA

February 6, 2014

Golden ticket to Hollywood

McQuillen advances to next round in 'American Idol'

By Sonya Vartabedian

---- — Andover’s Casey McQuillen sailed through the “American Idol” audition round last week, scoring a golden ticket to Hollywood.

As The Townsman was going to press this week, McQuillen was among the 212 “Idol” hopefuls who had moved on to the Hollywood round aiming to score one of the 16 contestant slots.

Over the next two weeks, the 212 wannabes will be whittled down to about 30 and then the final 16 who will vie for the “Idol” crown in season 13 of the popular Fox reality show.

That elimination process has already been taped, and while the 21-year-old McQuillen knows the outcome, she’s bound by “Idol” rules not to divulge how she did or risk a hefty fine and elimination from the contest.

But after winning rave reviews from the trio of “American Idol” judges during her audition, which aired last Thursday, Jan. 30, McQuillen has been turning to social media to build a fan base and boost her national exposure.

On Sunday, she began a FACEBOOK campaign to secure 20,000 likes for her “American Idol” audition tape, which is posted on youtube.

On Monday, McQuillen announced on Facebook, “All that matters is, how big do you want to dream, and how hard do you want to work? Goodnight #McQCrew, this crazy ride is just starting!”

She’s also been spotted on “American Idol” promos leading up to the first nights of the Hollywood round of taping, which were airing this Wednesday and Thursday night.

McQuillen certainly caught the judges’ attention at her audition broadcast last week, earning a “perfect” from Jennifer Lopez and a “gorgeous” from Keith Urban

“It was so insane. It was unbelievable,” McQuillen said from her apartment in Boston’s Back Bay moments after she watched the broadcast with a houseful of cheering family and friends.

McQuillen, who traveled to Omaha to audition after missing the Boston try-outs, said it was hard for her to fully comprehend the judges’ comments in the haze of the “Idol” spotlight. But their words came through loud and clear as Lopez, Urban and Harry Connick Jr. all couldn’t say enough about the Phillips Academy graduate who is now studying at Berklee College of Music in Boston.

Urban sat mesmerized as McQuillen, sporting a white dress with a pleated skirt and gray boots, performed an a cappella version of Demi Lovato’s “Skyscraper.”

“I just loved the restraint. I loved the fact that you came in and just chill and just did it, and your voice just crescendos,” Urban said when she was done. “Gorgeous. You sing beautifully. I love your voice.”

Lopez followed with a “thank you,” calling McQuillen’s performance “perfect.”

“That was angelic,” she said. “I don’t need (to hear) another song. I just loved it.”

Connick made it unanimous.

“If all you had was that voice, that would certainly be enough to get you to Hollywood, but I’m excited to see some of the other aspects of you as you come through,” he said. “But I really enjoyed that very much.”

McQuillen said she chose the Lovato song, which she has performed countless times, including at several of Andover’s elementary and middle schools, because of its message.

“It’s about bullying and being strong for yourself, at least that’s how I see it,” she said. “It focuses on the idea of a positive self-image and anti-bullying, which have always been so meaningful to me.

“I picked it because in the moment (of the audition), I could be singing it to myself and was convincing myself I was strong enough to be there.”

As the cameras caught an overjoyed McQuillen exiting the stage following her audition into the arms of her exuberant mother, Flora, who was waiting backstage, Urban told “Idol” viewers, “She is excellent. She’s got all the right things to blossom.”

While fans will have to wait to see what happens next, if Connick is any indication, McQuillen seems to have won some early backing.

“That’s going to be a fun one to watch,” he said of McQuillen.