So yeah, the crowd of starry eyed singers at the Rose Garden last Wednesday afternoon, Sept. 26, was pretty much what you'd expect at a Portland talent cattle-call: clueless blondes from the burbs, overly excitable middle aged men and teeny pigtailed girls in spandex. And those were only the hopefuls that WW spoke with.

Without keeping you in further suspense, here are three of the more memorable auditions, captured by WW intern Paul Dirksen, with supplemental biographies and critical commentary. Who does your vote go to?

Mark Brown, 44 years old
from Portland, Oregon

As he strides to the microphone, you notice something different about Mark Brown. He's a stocky guy with a beard and a bald head. And he's wearing a studded leather vest proclaiming "Mr. Oregon Bear 2007!" with boots and black jeans.

Brown says he's a Portland theatre scene vet, and has trod the boards at the likes of Triangle Productions, Broadway Rose and Lakewood Theatre Company. So he's an old hand at this sort of thing.

So what's with the bear drag?

"I just thought I'd represent the community," he says. Okay, but did he think anyone in the room had a clue what a "bear" was? "Oh no… but, you know, it's about bear awareness." Fair enough.

Here's Brown's take: simple, heartfelt, if a bit loose with the rhythms. Take note of Brown's repetition of "By the dawn's," calling attention to that most poetic of images. Brown's pleasant baritenor theatre voice places a little dollop of vibrato at the end of each phrase, and he gets pretty excitable at "the rocket's red guh-laaaaaaare," bellowing like Aaron Neville.


Kyndi and Jeni Niquette, 19 and 21 years old, respectively:
from Independence, Oregon

So where the hell is Independence, Oregon, anyway? "It's a cute little town, very historic, everyone knows everyone type of place," says 21 year old Jeni Piquette. "We've lived there for seven years."

The Niquette sisters—you've got to check out their website to believe them—are leggy, striking blondes with the perfect aww-shucks, buttoned-up rural Oregon demeanor, but it's authentic. The sisters, who aren't in college, have spent a good deal of time "traveling and performing dramas." What sort of dramas? "Biblical based dramas that our dad writes." Uh, okay. Where? "Various churches, school venues."

The duo have even bigger ambitions: "We want to get an agent and start doing national acting auditions… last month we debuted nationally doing two commercials," for a face wash, Kyndi says. They've also been singing together for five years, in a folk-rock duo called, of course, "Sweet 'n Sassy."

Were they scared of the competition? "There are some very good singers here. Even if we don't make it we're going to be glad to have our flag honored by some of the beautiful singers here." Aww, that's cute.

Pitch pipe in tow, the girls offered a sweet interpretation of the song, with plenty of country shimmy. Look out for that surprise ending!


Brandy, 7 years old
from Beaverton, Oregon

Sequin and spandex bedecked in bouncy red-ribbon pigtails, 7-year-old aspiring diva Brandy is impossible to miss as she wades through the throng of auditioners.

Brandy's a tough cookie with nerves of steel. The Blazers anthem auditions was her first ever, and she didn't show an ounce of anxiety. The carrot at the end of her audition stick may have helped: "Mom said she'll get me ice cream and bubblegum if I get it."

Brandy's also no sports nut. "I don't like basketball, I don't like sports… I just like singing!" she made clear with a toothy grin. What did she think of the competition? Brandy screws her face up: "Some of the girls were weird. Like, bad."

Check out Brandy's belting power—she'd give any "Annie"-impersonating brat a run for her money. She also subtly utilizes gesture to underscore her interpretation: look for the proud swinging arms at "What so proudly we hailed," or the way she rubs her eye in disbelief as "the ramparts we watched." She also interpolates a lovely floated high B-flat. Nearly. You go, Brandy!