HOULTON, Maine — In the end, the show must go on, and that is precisely what happened on Friday, March 2, at the Houlton Community Arts Center for the 2012 Northern Star singing competition.

Friday’s performance was nearly canceled when only six solo acts and one group signed up for the competition by the previous Tuesday morning. This prompted United Way of Aroostook officials to consider pulling the plug on the event, but by Friday evening, 14 soloists had joined the bill, putting on a show lasting more than two hours.

Three solo acts — Brandon Clark, Bailey McNally and Nathen Cyr — and the one performing group of Brittani Suitter and Cassidy Nason received the coveted “golden ticket” to advance to the final competition. Additional regional shows are scheduled for 7 p.m. Friday, March 9, at the Presque Isle Middle School auditorium and 7 p.m. Friday, March 16, at Fox Auditorium at the University of Maine at Fort Kent.

Once all three regional events have been completed, the area winners will compete in the finale, slated for Friday, March 25, at the Caribou Performing Arts Center.

“I can’t believe we are in our eighth year,” co-host Jason Parent said. “We’ve watched some of these artists grow up on this stage.”

“We’ve had some great talent from the Houlton area [in past competitions] and we have some more talented singers tonight,” said co-host Claudia Stevens of the United Way of Aroostook.

As in years past, audience members voted to send two singers from the regional shows to the finale. The panel of three local judges — Jason Anderson, Nancy Ketch and Margaret Hill — selected the third singer.

As was the case last year, the judges provided plenty of constructive criticism and positive comments for each performer. Many of the singers were encouraged to work on their stage presence and to engage the audience more to help overcome the onstage jitters that several singers showed.

Clark, a resident of Houlton, sang the powerful song “I Who Have Nothing,” by Tom Jones.

“You embodied that Tom Jones power in your voice right there,” Anderson said.

“That was a clinic for how to raise and lower your voice at just the right moments,” Hill said.

Ketch said Clark gave a “complete” performance onstage, allowing his emotion and body movements to shine through at just the right moments.

It marked the second-straight year Clark has advanced to the regional finale.

McNally, a resident of Sherman, gave a bluesy performance of “Oh! Darling,” by the Beatles, which earned the judges’ praise.

“Wow, the blues fit you very well,” Anderson said. “You have such a delicate sound, but you can also control your power.”

After the audience picked Clark and McNally to advance, the judges selected Cyr of Patten, who gave a gravelly performance with acoustic guitar of “Everything Changes,” by the rock band Staind. His selection and first-ever performance in the competition drew rave reviews from the judges as they complimented his singing style.

Ketch said she failed to take many notes during Cyr’s performance because she was drawn into the words he was singing.

Hill suggested Cyr pay closer attention to his microphone placement when singing as the location can have an impact on how the voice comes across.

“I enjoy hearing unique versions of songs and I think you have some amazing potential to craft your sound,” Anderson said. “We’ve been talking all night about the uniqueness of a voice that makes or breaks a singer nowadays. I encourage you to try writing songs and explore your vocal potential.”

The lone duo in the competition — Suitter and Nason — sang the duet, “Does He Love You,” by Reba McIntire and Linda Davis.

Judges complimented the two on their song choice and use of harmonies throughout the number.

Annie Charles, the 2007 winner of the competition, also performed on the evening and delivered two powerhouse performances of “Hallelujah Praise,” by CeCe Winans, and the gospel song “Lord, You Are Holy.”

All proceeds from funds raised at the door will go directly to the United Way of Aroostook’s annual campaign. Since the United Way of Aroostook launched the original “Aroostook Idol” fundraiser, it has drawn more than 150 competitors to the stage. It also has raised more than $180,000 to benefit agencies funded by the United Way in Aroostook County.

For more information on the “Northern Star” competition, contact the United Way of Aroostook at 764-5197.