Energetic siblings know how to please a crowd

Contest: It's been all uphill since Lashe and Scooter Woodhouse's Apollo appearance.

March 07, 2002|By Megan Hall | Megan Hall,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Lashe and Jermaine have shared the Apollo Theatre stage with P. Diddy and Blu Cantrell. They've lunched with Ananda Lewis and got some dance tips from Michael Jackson's choreographer. And when Arista Records called about a Lil' Bow Wow video, the rap duo had to beg off - they just couldn't fit it in.

New York may be their stepping stone to stardom, but at the day's end, the singing siblings return to their townhouse in Essex and get ready for another day at Mars Estate Elementary School. Lashe Woodhouse is 9 years old; her brother, Jermaine, is 6. And until their mom, Nikki Crane, entered them in a talent show at a McDonald's on Wise Avenue last year, they were just another couple of kids on Honeywood Place.

Their rap/dance routine to the song "My Baby," by Lil' Romeo, took them to the finals of the Greater Baltimore "It's Showtime at the Apollo!" competition, sponsored in part by the fast-food chain. And there, they beat out 50 other contestants for the chance to perform on the legendary Apollo stage in New York.

At home, Jermaine is known by his nickname, Scooter. And on a recent afternoon, he needed little prodding to strut his stuff. As his mom talked about her crazy idea to enter them into the McDonald's contest, Scooter broke into a rap song.

"I want to be a rapper so bad when I grow up," he says, smiling.

Nikki Crane always knew Lashe could sing. But it wasn't until the family went to Applebee's one evening that she discovered Scooter could rock. As they waited for their order, Crane says, Scooter popped up and started dancing to rap star Nelly's hit song "Country Grammar" that was playing on the restaurant's sound system.

"People started crowding around him and chanting. ... The crowd loved it. And that was when I realized he had a talent," Crane says.

A few months later, Crane heard the radio advertisement for the McDonald's talent show and decided to enter her children.

Before they left to compete in New York, McDonald's held a "kickoff party" for Lashe and Jermaine at its Wise Avenue restaurant, where employees rolled out a red carpet. The kids arrived in a black limousine and were greeted by family and faculty from their school who had followed the youngsters' accomplishments in the school newsletter.

They performed at the Apollo Jan. 18. From the first beat of Lil' Romeo's "My Baby," Scooter had the audience on its feet and clapping. His dance, scooting his foot across the floor and bouncing up and down, brought on more cheers.

Their performance earned them second place in the contest and even caught the attention of talk-show host Ananda Lewis. They returned to New York in late January to have lunch with her and meet choreographer Brian Thomas, who has worked with Michael Jackson, Britney Spears and other stars.

When they returned home to Essex, it was back to school, chores and practice.

Crane and the children's stepfather, Elton Smith, make sure Lashe and Scooter stay focused on their schoolwork. "Education must come first," says Crane.

"Lashe and Jermaine have both remained well-grounded in their schoolwork and remain respected by their peers and staff," adds Roger Proudfoot, principal at Mars Estate Elementary.

The children do keep busy, though. Lashe is a cheerleader on the Stembridge Colts all-star squad and a singer in the choir at New Frontiers of Faith Baptist Church. She says, "I like to sing because of my talent, and I love music." At home, her chores include cleaning her room and the bathroom.

"Lashe is awesome. She is a good cheerleader and has no problem mastering what the instructors tell her," says Phyllis Weisel, Lashe's cheerleading coach.

When Scooter isn't performing, he is playing basketball, football or baseball. But he, too, must keep up his grades and help around the house, says his mom.

And most nights the children are in bed by 9:30 p.m., Crane says.

The Woodhouse kids recently signed a contract with a local record company to cut a demo. So watch out Alicia Keys and Nelly: Lashe and Jermaine Woodhouse are on the rise.

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