Sugarland brought its In Your Hands Tour to the sold-out Mystic Lake Casino amphitheater Wednesday. That meant song requests via Twitter, the band's website and handmade signs passed to the stage. It also meant an opportunity for one lucky fan to sing with the hitmaking country group, arranged by K102 radio station. Avery Evans, 4, was accompanied by her mother, Jennifer. Mom explained that at 22 months old, Avery was diagnosed with a brain tumor and given only a few months to live. She has survived and is now 85 percent cancer free. "Can you say hello?" Sugarland singer Jennifer Nettles asked Avery. "No, you," Avery responded, looking at her mom. As Sugarland performed "Baby Girl," it became a duet for the two Jennifers as shy Avery stood there in her pink cowgirl boots and pink plaid dress. Eventually, Avery started to dance a bit and then when Nettles asked the crowd to wave their arms in unison, Avery joined in. "Was that fun?" Nettles asked the youngster at song's end. Avery just nodded and then blew a kiss to the crowd with her hand.
JON BREAMMinnesota twins get reality show
Abby and Brittany Hensel, conjoined Minnesota twins, are about to get ready for their close-up. The reality show "Abby and Brittany" will premiere at 9 p.m. Aug. 28 on TLC. The twins, who share a body, grew up in Carver County and recently graduated from Bethel University in Arden Hills. The show will follow them through graduation, on job searches and on a summer trip to Europe with friends. The 22-year-old sisters each have a heart but share a circulatory system and some organs. They have two arms, two legs, two stomachs and four lungs. Each feels one side of their body, and each has her own distinct personality. While they appeared on the cover of Life Magazine and "Oprah" when they were 6 and were the subjects of a 2008 TLC documentary as teens, they have otherwise grown up out of the spotlight, living with their parents and two younger siblings in tiny New Germany, Minn., and attending high school in nearby Mayer. It's rare for twins conjoined this way to live to be adults, but Abby and Brittany are in good health.
KRISTIN TILLOTSONHometown triumph
Weinstein Gallery reports that "Gordon Parks at 100" was the most successful show in the gallery's 16-year history. Nearly 5,000 people saw the exhibit during its seven-week run in south Minneapolis. That's more than checked out previous shows by dancer Mikahail Baryshnikov (2008) and musician David Bryne (1999). Parks (1912 - 2006) still has a lot of family and friends in St. Paul, where he got his start before gaining national fame for his photo journalism at Life and other magazines before directing the pioneering film "Shaft" (1971). Decompressing after the Parks crush, Weinstein has installed a summer show of pinhole camera images and new work by Minnesota's own Alec Soth. "So many people were pouring in that it was just crazy," gallery director Leslie Hammons told I.W. "That was so great, but it's nice to be quiet now."
MARY ABBEErdrich is everywhere
Minneapolis writer Louise Erdrich's short story "The Years of My Birth," which ran in the New Yorker, is part of a larger work -- her newest novel, "The Round House," which will be published in October by Harper. It's the lively account of the birth and early years of Linda Wishkob, told in the first person, which is kind of remarkable when you realize that "The Round House" is also told in the first person, but by somebody else entirely. The story/excerpt is also included in Dave Eggers' annual "The Best American Nonrequired Reading," due in October. In the afterword of "The Round House," Erdrich mentions her 2010-11 fight with breast cancer and she thanks those who helped her get through it -- her doctors, daughter and others. Let it be known that I.W. is relieved that her battle was successful, and we wish her a long life, continued good health and, of course, many more books.
LAURIE HERTZELIf the shoe fits
Twin Cities-trained stage stars Laura Osnes and Santino Fontana will play the leads in "Cinderella" on Broadway next year. Burnsville-born Osnes, who shot to national fame in 2007 after winning a Broadway role through the reality TV show "Grease: You're the One that I Want!," has since starred in "South Pacific," "Anything Goes" and "Bonnie and Clyde." Fontana, who was in the inaugural 2004 class of the Guthrie Theater/University of Minnesota's BFA training program, has played Broadway in "The Importance of Being Earnest," "A View From the Bridge" and "Billy Elliot." He will portray Prince Topher to Osnes' Cinderella in the Broadway premiere of the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, based on their 1957 TV movie. Previews begin Jan. 21.
ROHAN PRESTONName check
As loquacious as his old college roommate Lyle Lovett, Texas troubadour Robert Earl Keen began his concert at the Cedar Cultural Center Saturday by expressing his delight at being there. Then he offered a bit of a disclaimer: "I come from Medina, Texas, which is populated by folks we call cedar-choppers, and I'm not sure the word 'cultural' has ever been linked to 'cedar' down there, so it takes a little getting used to."