WHAT: Garden of Dreams Talent Show.
WHEN: 7 p.m. Thursday.
WHERE: Radio City Music Hall, 1260 Sixth Ave., Manhattan; radiocity.com.
HOW MUCH: Free.
FOR MORE INFORMATION: gardenofdreamsfoundation.org
When Noelle Dadon was 1 1/2 years old, doctors told her parents to prepare for a long, difficult life.
"We were petrified that she might never be able to speak or communicate with us," says her father, Bart Dadon, remembering when doctors originally thought the little girl was autistic.
But on this day, more than 12 years later, it is Noelle's mother, Yvette Dadon, who can't adequately express herself.
"It's beyond words," Yvette Dadon says of the idea that her 14-year-old daughter would soon sing onstage at Radio City Music Hall as part of the Garden of Dreams Talent Show.
Impressing the crowd
The Fort Lee residents are speaking from the orchestra seats before a rehearsal for the show. From this close, the stage looks almost unimaginably big. In a few moments, their daughter – who suffers from juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, glaucoma, uveitis and Tourette's syndrome – will step up and impress the crowd, singing Pink's "Glitter in the Air."
"It was unbelievable," says Noelle later. "I was so nervous."
It didn't show.
"You have an incredible, incredible, incredible, incredible voice," Run-DMC's Darryl McDaniels tells Noelle. "Like amazing. I'm overwhelmed."
McDaniels, of Wayne, is the creative director for the show and, at this final rehearsal, is offering final tips and words of encouragement.
The Garden of Dreams Foundation is a charity arm of Madison Square Garden, including the New York Knicks, Rangers and Liberty. Their annual talent show is an event that lets children from different Garden of Dreams partner organizations, like Make-A-Wish of New Jersey, the Starlight Foundation and Hackensack University Medical Center, perform on the Radio City stage. The children have faced a variety of issues in their lives, including serious illness, homelessness, poverty and tragedy. They sing, dance, rap and do magic.
"For Noelle, this is her opportunity to feel like she's exceptional," says Bart Dadon.
The Dadons are now part of the Garden of Dreams family, one that supports and encourages everyone.
"We're all just pulling for each other really hard," Bart Dadon says. "We want to see all the kids shine."
Two of those other performers are also Bergen County residents – Washington Township's Caroline Sakovits and Midland Park's Sean Burke.
A dance routine
Caroline, a second-grader at The Elisabeth Morrow School in Englewood and a patient at HUMC, looks so small, almost doll-like, as she moves across the stage for her dance routine.
"You did a wonderful job," McDaniels tells her when it's over. One of the Rockettes compliments Caroline's "amazing" jump split.
The 8-year-old admits she was nervous, but she can't wait for the actual show.
"I'm really excited because a lot of stars performed here," she says. "The Rockettes perform here."
After a few more acts rehearse, it's time for Sean to wow with his magic. Even sitting just a few feet away, there's no way to know how the 14-year-old makes candlesticks appear and disappear. Wearing a tuxedo, he is all personality, owning the famous venue.
"I've seen the Radio City Christmas Spectacular here and I said to myself, 'Someday I want to be on that stage,' " Sean says. "It's definitely a magical place."