The America's Got Talent
auditions roll on Tuesday night with an action-packed episode that wows from start to finish. There's so much talent crammed into two hours that I'm actually dreading the inevitable episode that focuses on the hilariously bad acts.
I'm never a fan of the mocking that goes on with the people who over-confidently think they're great and then get shot down by the judges and a booing audience, but we've seen so few of them thus far that I genuinely worry a mostly miserable night is on the horizon.
But there's no need to fret over the future, as we all just hope to make it there, so let's get to the performers. There are no judge or Nick Cannon introductions this time, and after a POV sequence leading us from sidewalk to stage, it's time to get to it.
On a side note, it must be quite the experience to be a fly on the wall in the NJPAC prior to and during these auditions. With all the different types of acts, it's a combination of freak show and the presence of genius. There are opera singers and classically trained dancers standing next to guys who get kicked in the nuts for a living. Where else would you ever find a mix like that?
Also, this Taxi Brooklyn show looks terrrribblllllee. What a strange and implausible premise.
We jump right into the mix with singer/songwriter Emily West, who is struggling both in her career and with the New York City subway system. Her bluesy and lounge-y rendition of "Sea of Love" gets Howard Stern and Howie Mandel on their feet, and this original is through to the next round. She's no Cami Bradley, but it's a nice way to kick things off.
Duo Trapeze is the rare strongwoman pair, and the tricks include one chick suspended in the air by her feet, being held there by the other girl's feet
Carly Jo Jackson has the look of a performer who specializes in the coffee shop genre she is trying to get out of, and she's pretty, sweet and much more like Cami.
Orlene Gentile is a juggler who lies on her back and twirls a table on her feet. She usually performs with her husband and children but is trying it solo this time. What do the kids do, you ask? They GET juggled. Coming soon to an America's Got Talent live show near you...
Baila Conmigo is four pairs of Colombian Salsa dancers who all belong to the same dance studio in New Jersey. They dance around the stage so fast it looks like they're having seizures, and then a bunch of kids race out onto the floor and move equally as fast. The choreography is great, but it's so busy that I have no idea where to look. It's like streaky sparkles are throwing up on stage, and I'm sorry, but this goes back to my belief that kid dancers are creepy no matter how talented or cute.
Rachel Butera is a comedienne and impressionist who has appeared on Howard Stern's radio show, so he is not allowed to vote due to the conflict of interest. Her Wanda Sykes, Rosie O'Donnell, Whoopi Goldberg and Joan Rivers are nearly spot-on, but even if my eyes were closed, I'd know they were impressions.
Legaci is a boy band whose members moonlight as tech industry workers to pay the bills, and they completely underwhelm during their introductions. The judges are all bored, until the guys open their mouths and belt out an All-4-One-esque ballad. Only they're all Asian, so 4 P.M. is probably a better comparison. I predict a "Sukiyaki" performance at some point, and these guys should be able to make a career out of this, win or lose. Bravo.
Mat Franco is a good-looking 25-year-old card-trick magician whose grandma spent hours watching him hone is craft as a child, and he promises something we've never seen on AGT before. He wrote a story about the judges, and he tells it by making corresponding cards in his constantly-shuffled deck appear at random. It's amazing to watch, and this dude delivered on his promise.
Paul Ieti is a soldier in the US Army and a singer, and this opportunity means the world to him after fighting for our freedom. There's just no way this dude, with this backstory, isn't good. He gets a well-deserved standing ovation before he even starts, and for good measure, they show a muscly guy in the audience wearing a camo T-shirt. Thankfully, Paul doesn't disappoint. Even though he misses the opening cue of the song two or three times and fails to keep up with the music, he belts out a beautiful rendition of Rihanna's "Stay," which went viral on YouTube last year after he recorded a video while in Afghanistan. The judges love it, while the pianist likely hates it. They give him hugs while the Rudy theme song (best theme song EVER) plays in the background, and he'll eventually be done in by his nerves.
Christian Stoinev is a fifth-generation hand-balancing circus performer who has been on stage since he was a young child. He's in this for his own headlining show, and he wows the judges by doing a handstand held up by one finger stuck inside a champagne bottle. That is one strong finger. Just don't pull it.
Montage alert! A guy whose English I can't understand does a high-wire routine complete with mid-air splits, the one chick and group of low-cut-shirt-wearing dudes who make up the Bad Boys of Ballet dance around the stage, and a pair of brothers whose names I didn't get perform a rock version of Sting's "Fields of Gold." I think they said their names are Kieran and Felony Minkus, but that is likely way, way off.
All things considered, I wasn't that far off!
Eleven-year-old Grace Ann Gregorio and 31-year-old hottie personal trainer Maggie Lane are both very different opera singers who are moving on. Grace is sweet, while Maggie strips down to a bikini and gets a standing ovation from the guys in the audience and hot-body compliments from Heidi and Mel B. Shockingly, Howard wishes she kept her clothes on, but Howie thinks it opens opera to a whole new audience.
A pair of kid dancers flip around the stage, followed by a group of slightly older kid girl dancers and a kid who solves a Rubik's Cube with his feet.
Josh Orlian is a 12-year-old yarmulke-wearing sixth-grader comedian who has only performed in front of his family and friends. He's nervous and sweaty, and his routine is so rehearsed and stiff that it feels like he's reading the surprisingly-dirty jokes off flash cards. It's endearing and entertaining, though, and the bits are decently funny if not just for the shock value of the unexpected material. But he most certainly doesn't belong in the next round, even though he's moving on. Howard tells him to step it up and learn to be more comfortable on stage.
We cap things off with aerialist Laura Dasi, the latest in our string of emotionally-laden show closers. This mom and yoga instructor developed alopecia five years ago and lost all her hair, and after years of wearing wigs and hiding out, she decided to chase her dreams. So she started taking aerial silk lessons, and it's getting lost in the music and the moment that makes her feel beautiful. In all honesty, she lacks the polish of a professional, but as far as backstory vs. talent goes, she's the best so far. It's a well-deserved coming out for a gifted woman who does, in fact, deserve to be seen.
Dr. Benji McCallister is a surgeon by day who plays the keyboard at night, and he proves the Jheri curl and cummerbund are alive and well even in 2014. His techno funk version of "Dancin' in the Street" gets the first boos and Xs of the night, and it's disappointing it couldn't all just be good. Oh well, at least Nick Cannon seems to like him. And we're already more than 90 minutes into the show before an entry in this section, so it could be worse.
Elaina Klickenvanhachenmaker (that's a guess), aka the Magical Voice Doctor, is an opera performer who attempts to teach Howard how to sing. It's fun, but I hope this lady didn't wait in line all day just for this.
The Best of the Best
It's hard to settle on just a few acts following such an impressive night, but for me, based purely on performance, guy group Legaci and magician Mat Franco were the standouts. And of course the bikini opera singer, but that's for the variety of different, eh hem, assets and abilities she possesses.
Who were your favorites, and who are you looking forward to seeing perform again? Is there anyone from this group you think has a shot to win the whole thing? It probably won't matter either way, because
we've been promised "Show Stopping Sunday," a special weekend-ending
episode that apparently puts all the best talent on display. I can only
assume this will be followed by a weak week filled with all the acts no one
should have to sit through. But at least Sunday looks fun, so don't miss AGT on
a special night!
America's Got Talent airs Tuesdays at 8pm (and this Sunday at 9pm) on NBC.
(Image and videos courtesy of NBC)