by Bruce Strand, Arts editor
Personally, my arts & entertainment highlight for 2011 was listening to a 60-ish fellow from Big Lake named Mark Frandsen singing at the Sherburne County Fair talent contest in July.
Frandsen took on one of the toughest, rangiest pop songs ever, “Cara Mia,” the 1966 hit by Jay and the Americans in 1966, and belted it out beautifully, flawlessly. He just nailed it. Even the lingering high notes. The fact that Cara Mia was one of my favorites from my high school days didn’t hurt.
Jay Black appeared on one of those Public Television fundraisers to sing “Cara Mia” a few years back and he cautioned the audience that he was 25 when he recorded the song and was 62 now, so he wasn’t sure if he could handle all the high notes, but he pulled it off pretty well. I thought about that, too, when listening to, and marveling at, Frandsen’s seasoned but not worn vocal cords. Chatting with him after the contest I was surprised to hear that he’d never sung in a band, he just liked to do karaoke and sing with family members and little gigs like the county fair.
Frandsen was the best singer in the contest but had to settle for second prize and didn’t seem to mind. First place went to a trio of ERHS teenage dancers.
The choice was a good one because the “Sher-Bounce Crew” of Josh Walbot, Fanaka Ndege and Dupre Robinson – with break-dancing, synchronized duets, leaps, playful fighting, a back flip, and rapping by Fananka – wound up winning the open division the state fair’s competition for county fair winners.
This being the issue where the Star-News cites top stories of 2011 in various news and sports categories, here’s my list of arts and entertainment highlights.
• Mark Frandsen and “Cara Mia” at the fair.
• ”The Sher-Bounce Crew” at the county and state fairs (I saw them there, too, in the second of their three performances).
• Rogers High School presented its first-ever musical, “Godspell,” and put on an excellent show in April, on a makeshift stage in the middle school, with Peter Schultz, a Rogers resident borrowed from Spectrum High School, in the lead role. ERHS/Rogers choir director Terrill Beaudry organized the huge project and raised the funds.
• Also debuting was Front Porch Music Theatre, a Rogers-area youth group headed by theatre veterans Linda and Tim Lindeen in the basement of their Dayton home. They pulled off “The Secret Garden” smoothly at Zabee Theatre on Dec. 2-3.
• Lexi Yeado, 21, former Elk dance and tennis standout, was one of 20 women from thousands who audition to be chosen by renowned choreographer Lauriann Gibson for a Black Entertainment Network competition show, “Born To Dance.” Yeado appeared on two episodes in early August and was not among those picked to continue. Excited by the experience, she dropped out of Dallas Baptist University to pursue her dream in Los Angeles. But she found like many others that show biz is a cruel, long-shot business and returned home after seven weeks.
• Phil Bologna, ERHS theatre director for seven years and 28 performances, resigned last spring to pursue other interests. His replacement is Michelle Brooks, whose debut was a well-received “It’s a Wonderful Life,” in November.
• Elk River Community Theatre staged a grand project, “Phantom of the Opera,” in July, with a big budget, big orchestra, big set and big cast, headed by tenor Joshua Paul Smith, a recent Bethel graduate. “Phantom” is rarely available to amateur groups and director Eileen Bowersox snapped it up quickly. Despite ERCT’s prodigious efforts that produced a quality performance, attendance was a disappointing 1,644 for seven shows, about the normal turnout, leaving the group mulling whether such efforts are worth it.
• Among a long list of fine entertainment offerings in the area each year, many of them free and open to the public, a favorite of mine is the Rogers Revue, held in April the last three years at Word of Peach Church, as a fundraiser for Rogers-Hassan Senior Friendship Group. It’s a wide variety of impressive local acts – not a competetion, just music, dance and comedy for the performamers and audience’s enjoyment. Among 18 acts this year was “Quarter to Three,” pictured above, a very listenable C & W group that jams once a week in a member’s house where an old clock is stuck on 2:45 (hence the name) and they say they only play once a year, at the Rogers Revue.
(All photos by Bruce Strand)