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Crowds enjoy wild finish at Lyric Live in Overtown

Erick Johnson | 3/13/2014, 9 a.m.

In the end, it came down to two divas at Lyric Live in Overtown.

But the audience at the monthly talent show was divided on which one to crown the winner. Both nailed songs originally recorded by pop diva Whitney Houston.

Will it be Mimi Lattimore, who wowed the crowds with her raspy vocals as she sang the late artist’s hit I Believe

in You and Me? Or will it be Mailyn Cuadra, the defending champion who brought the crowds to their feet with her stunning vocal range as she belted out Houston’s signature ballad, I Will Always Love You?

Both singers drew loud cheers and screams from the crowds as emcee hosts Cello asked the final questions. On the mythical applause meter, the noise levels were indistinguishable on three separate applauses. Showing frustration Cello led the crowd to give it their all for their favorite.

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Garth Reeves

Finally, a winner emerged. It was Cuadra.

“I didn’t think I would win,” Cuadra said. “I thought (Mimi) was going to take it.”

“They were both phenomenal,” said actress JoMarie Payton from the popular television sitcom “Family Matters”. Payton, who grew up in Miami and attended Lyric Live that night as well as the first one in February.

It was a fitting ending to a wild night at Lyric Live held in the hallowed confines of the restored Lyric Theatre, which reopened last month after a two-year renovation project. A new, glistening chrome and wood lobby was added to the 100-year old venue. Residents from as far as Fort Lauderdale came to see contestants perform and compete for a $500 cash prize. Many contestants perform for the exposure, hoping to be discovered.

The crowds was nearly twice as large as the previous one, perhaps because of Cuadra, a powerhouse singer from Kendall whose performance of Billie Holiday’s And I’m Telling You brought the crowds to their feet last month. The performance also earned Cuadra her first title and of course another $500. Not bad for a part-time cashier at Wendy’s.

“I didn’t want to bore the audience with the same song,” Cuadra said. “But you can’t go wrong with Whitney.”

Cuadra also faced strong competition from the other contestants, including Shley Snider, a Kansas native who moved to Miami several months ago. She surprised the tough crowd singing the rap song from Chris Brown and Buster Rhymes, Look at Me Now. Wearing a black top with pajamas-looking pants, Snider impressed the crowd rapping with the lyrics at rapid speed, bringing the crowds to their feet and drawing a rousing standing ovation.

“I was nervous at first because I am new to the city,” she said.

At the show Miami Times owner and publisher emeritus Garth Reeves, Sr. was honored with an award for his contributions to various community organizations.

Many spectators enjoyed the show and plan to return for the next Lyric Live. They would have to wait. The next one is April 4, or the first Friday of every month.