FORT KENT — Not all the stars were in the heavens Friday night.
At least 18 took to the stage in Fox Auditorium at the University of Maine at Fort Kent for the fifth annual United Way fundraising talent show.
Formerly Aroostook Idol, the event opened this year under the banner Northern Star to reflect participation from singers north of the border.
“This is the first year we have invited our Canadian friends to take part,” Claudia Stevens, executive director of United Way of Aroostook, said Friday night before the curtain went up. “This year, in addition to Aroostook County, we have participants from New Brunswick’s Carlton, Victoria and Madawaska counties.”
Turns out that was a pretty good move for the show’s organizers, with two of the top three spots going to performers from Canada.
Two winners were selected by audience vote, with a third “wild card” going to the judges’ favorite.
Megan Ouellette of Clair, New Brunswick, and Isabelle Pelletier of Edmundston, New Brunswick, will join Madawaska’s Stacie Coltart at the Northern Star finale next Sunday, Feb. 28, at the Caribou Performing Arts Center.
The finalist of that show is selected from winners of the Fort Kent event and two previous shows in Houlton and Presque Isle. Those winners were Jason Shaw, Zachariah Harvey, Wyatt Jenkins, Lance Albert, Jordan Buckley and Allyson Michaud.
While every act stepping onto the UMFK stage Friday night received a round of applause and largely good reviews from the panel of judges, it was 12-year-old Isabelle Pelletier who brought down the house with her rendition of the French classic “Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien.”
It earned the petite singer the evening’s only standing ovation.
“Have you ever heard of Susan Boyle?” evening co-host Jason Parent asked Pelletier in French, in reference to the British singing sensation who floored the judges on “Britain’s Got Talent” last year.
“I’ve gone to a lot of singing competitions,” Pelletier said after the show, “but I was not prepared for the audience reaction here.”
It was Coltart who had the unenviable position of performing immediately after Pelletier.
“How do you follow that?” she said with a laugh to the audience, and immediately launched into a crowd-pleasing rendition of “Black Horse and the Cherry Tree.”
Ouellette, 17, also stuck to the classics with her sultry performance of “Oh! Darling” by the Beatles.
“I’m a huge Beatles fan,” she said. “I’ve been singing since before I could talk.”
All three Northern Star events plus the grand finale show are expected to raise $25,000 for United Way of Aroostook.
“By doing what you do you have made a difference in someone’s life,” Stevens told all the performers. “You make it possible for us to help those who need it.”