STAPLES -- Weekend performances by Frank Dell and his Country Legends Family Show have left two area venue operators "reeling with disappointment" and have prompted some in their audiences to demand ticket refunds.
The operators -- one in Staples, the other in Grand Rapids -- told The Dispatch this week they feel "hoodwinked" and "snookered" into booking the show and are looking for ways to "make it up to our audience."
Dell, a country singer and agent from Duluth, brought his Country Legends show to Centennial Auditorium in Staples for a pair of performances Saturday and to the Reif Center in Grand Rapids on Sunday. Adult tickets were $16 at the gate.
"I've been wondering how I got hoodwinked on this one. I felt like I missed something somewhere." -- Ken Scarbrough Staples-Motley superintendent
Billed as a "classic country and gospel" variety show, the program featured singer Donna Douglas, better known as Elly May Clampett of "The Beverly Hillbillies" television fame.
The operators said they expected a "live music performance" and were surprised when Dell and Douglas "lip-synched" their songs to recorded music.
They also objected to Douglas' decision to eat up about 30 minutes of stage time with "what she considered an inspirational message to the crowd," the operators said.
"It wasn't what we expected when we booked (the show) for the concert," said Ken Scarbrough, superintendent of Staples-Motley public schools, which owns and operates Centennial Auditorium.
"And Douglas ended up speaking to the crowd with what she considered was an inspirational message for a half hour, and the crowd wasn't happy with that either," he said.
Similar sentiments were voiced by David Marty, executive director of the Reif Center, who said, "In the four years I've been here I've never come across this in a performance."
"We were pretty disappointed with the overall quality on stage," Marty said.
The operators said many in the audience left at intermission, with some demanding refunds or some other form of accommodation from the venues.
Scarbrough said the auditorium "will try to make it up with our crowd" by offering free or discounted tickets to future events in the 2000-2001 performing arts season. The Centennial Auditorium plans to run ads in area newspapers to announce the plan.
Centennial's season resumes Feb. 11 with the George Maurer Group, a jazz ensemble from St. Cloud, and concludes April 10 with a Guthrie Theater performance of "Molly Sweeney."
"I've been wondering how I got hoodwinked on this one," Scarbrough said. "I felt like I missed something somewhere."
Contacted by The Dispatch, Dell said his show relies on prerecorded tracks to provide the melody for every performance, but the tracks were lost before the two weekend dates.
"We did not say that we were bringing a live band, and explained to the audience that we were working under some handicaps," he said. "But we had to do something, we couldn't just stand there."
Dell said he and Douglas were forced to lip-synch their songs because the only tracks available included vocals, rather than just the melodies.
"This is the first time we ever had a problem like this, but the bottom line is that the people who were there loved the show," he said. "We didn't know anything was wrong. The majority hung around at the close and asked for autographs."
Scarbrough said, "We like to get a variety of entertainment and haven't had a country western show in a while and thought we might reach an audience that hadn't been coming to some of our other performances.
"We reached a different audience but I don't think they were very happy," he added. "I'm kind of reeling from it a little bit. We didn't have a very good turnout (about 100 tickets were sold), and that was the good news in the end."
Marty said the Reif Center will likely "do something to benefit the audience ... to apologize for putting on something that was not up to our standards."
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.