Chippewa Herald * April 6, 2008       Visitor
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Chi-Hi seniors find a whole new world on stage

by Tom Arneberg, Community Columnist

"Are you going to wax your tummy?"

That's not the typical question heard by an 18-year-old male basketball player and weight-lifter. But then, he was not preparing for the typical talent show act, either.

For those who missed this year's outstanding talent contest at the high school last Friday, March 28, students showcased a delightful variety of entertainment, including tap dancing, piano playing, drumming, break-dancing, lots of singing, and even yodeling.

But Chi-Hi Senior Josh Reiter helped bring the house down with his portrayal of Jasmine from Disney's movie "Aladdin."

Yes, Josh sang the actual high notes in falsetto. And yes, he wore a real teal midriff!

It takes some self-confidence to do that in front of 500 of your peers.

Josh was accompanied on his flying carpet by my oldest son, Ben, who thankfully got to dress up as Aladdin, a full-fledged male.

It's been a few years since 18-year-old Ben has wanted to tinker in the workshop with his dad. But we did get to spend a few evenings downstairs last week with the whole family, concocting a carpet that appeared to hover.

Our strategy was to use 1x2 furring strips on edge, supported by the hooks of Josh's marching band drum harness in the back, with fishing line holding up the other three corners.

Over the wooden frame we stapled colorful fabric, and cut two holes for Ben and Josh to step into. Hanging from the frame we stapled black sheets to hide their feet.

Josh's midriff and Ben's white tunic were continued on top of the "carpet" with fake legs for each. This setup left both hands free for each of them: one to hold the microphone and one for dramatically corny gestures.

During the song they were able to tilt back and forth, making it look like the carpet they were both sitting on was "encountering a bit of turbulence."

This idea sounded great when they first floated it a couple months ago. What made it really amazing, though, is that they both SANG!

Neither Josh nor Ben had ever sung in public, but there they were, belting out solos and then dueting in harmony, "A Whole New World," in front of an auditorium full of people!

A dad couldn't be more proud.

For years I went to Ben's basketball games, even though that's a sport I didn't know much about. Now, THIS -- singing and acting on stage -- is something I understand!

Not only did they sing, but they stood there confidently, in total character, even though the crowd was cheering and screaming before they even opened their mouths.

Granted, they would not have won any contests for perfect tuning or beautiful harmony. But contests like this are concerned primarily with entertainment, and they earned the $150 second place prize. They were thrilled!

The best part is yet to come.

Ben and Josh's act was beaten by -- get this -- Ben's OTHER act! He and his sister Alison won the $250 first prize via the old art of "throwing up and catching." Yes, Ben finally joined the family juggling troupe.

Alison and her younger brothers have been doing little juggling shows for quite a while at places like the Heyde Center, Leinie's Lodge, and Pure Water Days. They even juggled live on WWIB radio last October.

Before this act, Ben always refused to join them because he thought they weren't good enough to be doing that in public.

But when it came down to his last chance to try it -- the talent contest in his senior year -- he decided to go for it.

Ben and Alison came out dressed in black to music from the movie, "The Matrix." Mimicking a scene from the movie, Ben opened his trenchcoat to the audience, but instead of an array of guns strapped to the coat's inside, there were juggling clubs.

They did the usual juggling and passing of clubs, balls, and rings.

What really got the crowd going was when the lights dimmed while their brother Jasper walked in with six flaming torches. Juggling torches is not quite like juggling clubs -- you really don't want to do any "one-and-a-half" flips.

They surprised even themselves by doing the whole torch routine, including passing the six torches back and forth between the two of them, with only one drop.

That's the best they had ever done! They picked a nice time to peak.

I can't tell you how many times they dropped the torches while practicing on our back deck. (For some strange reason, their over-protective mother does not allow them to juggle flaming torches inside the house.)

If you would've told Ben and Josh a year ago while they were playing JV basketball that they'd be on stage SINGING during their senior year, they would've considered you nuts. (They would not even WATCH "High School Musical.")

But sometimes kids come out of their shell and try something new during their last year of high school.

Ben and Josh plan to use their prize money to help pay for prom.

Earning money by performing on stage? It's "a whole new world" for these seniors.

See photos and videos from the talent show:

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