lip sync battle

Arc clients and performers on stage during Arc of Calhoun and Cleburne Counties' lip sync battle in 2018. (provided photo)

In three years of Arc of Calhoun and Cleburne Counties lip sync battles, there’s one infamous duo whose music has never been performed.

“I want somebody to do Milli Vanilli one day,” said Arc outreach director Pati Tiller, laughing, Thursday morning. 

The German duo became legendary in 1990 for not singing its own songs — hits like “Blame It on the Rain” and “Girl I’m Gonna Miss You” — which is fitting for a contest that pits eight to 10 groups of faux-singers against one another, pretending to sing their hearts out for audience votes and judges’ approval in an “American Idol” style competition. 

The annual fundraiser returns 7 p.m. Saturday at Leone Cole Auditorium on the JSU campus, due to the sudden unavailability of the previously announced venue. The Arc works with individuals who have intellectual and developmental disabilities; proceeds benefit the organization’s various programs, including Special Olympics training and job readiness courses, among others. 

Tiller said Arc had been looking for a new kind of fundraiser, “that hadn’t been done in the area,” when the competition was conceived a few years ago. Around that time, lip sync battles with celebrity guests were featured on Jimmy Fallon’s “Tonight Show,” and the concept even spawned a syndicated spinoff. Contestants in Arc’s shows often perform skits and bits of theater around their songs, with costumes and choreographed dance routines. 

“We had one team do the theme song to ‘Pokémon’ and the guy ordered a Pokémon outfit,” Tiller recalled, and the costume paid off. “When he came out on stage he about brought the place down.” 

Among the teams competing this year is People First, a club of about 30 adults with developmental disabilities, performing Marvin Gaye’s “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” and “This Is Me” from the movie “The Greatest Showman.” 

Barbara Odom’s daughter, Kimbery Boone, has performed with People First. Boone said she and about half of the club practiced choreography for the songs two nights a week for the last month to get ready for the show. Odom said the other half of the club runs the concession stand at the event, and they trade off who performs from year to year. 

Odom said the lip sync show is an annual highlight for the club’s members. 

“They get so excited,” Odom said. “They talk about it all during the year.” 

People First is an arm of Arc, and has similar priorities for its members. Participants might learn how to conduct themselves during a job interview, for instance, or general life skills that help them support themselves. Many of the members don’t have close family, Odom said, so they’ve had to learn independence. 

“We try to teach our clients that they’re important and that their voice matters,” Odom explained.

Assistant Metro Editor Ben Nunnally: 256-235-3560.