Originally aired on Tuesday, 06/19/2007
Episode Rating: ***(3 stars out of 5)
Episode Overview: America's Got Talent heads to Chicago, and finds some solid talent and some of the usual oddities.
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This episode of America's Got Talent heads to the hometown of Jerry Springer, Chicago, IL. Will the talent pool here be as freaky as the guests on Springer's show?
The first act to audition makes it seem so. Consuelo Campbell is a middle-aged woman composer/singer who will sing her own piece, a combination of Gregorian chant, blues and gospel. Will it be a Bjork-esque genius amalgamation or a trainwreck? The first section, the chant, seems promising in that she is actually able to sing it appropriately. Unfortunately, she doesn't change her vocal style at all for the blues or gospel section so final result: trainwreck. She's not put through to Vegas.
Next up is Sideswipe, a combination martial arts and acrobat act. They do a set involving lots of leaps and flips. It's extremely impressive, but one wonders if this can be interesting more than once? The judges think so, and the act is put through.
A young country singer performs next. He does a solid version of a current country hit. David and Sharon like him enough to put him through, although Piers thinks there was nothing special about him. At this point, the dissent between Piers and the other judges starts up, with David getting annoyed at Piers' heavy-handed attitude.
The next act initially brings groans from the judges: it's a ventriloquist. In interview, the ventriloquist says that he has been doing this for 20 years, and yet "most of America doesn't know who I am." This is initially annoying, because the vast majority of America toils away in an anonymity for their entire lives. But as soon as he starts to perform, it's clear that America should know about him. His puppet does "imitations" and starts with an absolutely amazing mimicry of Etta James's "At Last." The judges are blown away and put him though.
Less successful is the 10-year old who sings Kelly Clarkson's "A Moment Like This." While it's very impressive for someone so young, it's not good enough to go through. She starts to cry when David and Sharon give their feedback, and Piers gives her the advice that she will need to toughen herself up to work in show business.
The younger acts continue to have difficulty as we see a montage of an unsuccessful young dance troupe, guitar player/singer, singing group and baton twirler.
A young woman - Butterscotch, age 21 - takes the stage to attempt to win over the judges. She is a beatboxer and singer, who brings her own banana, which, she explains, she uses in case her mouth dries out. She does a truly amazing beat version of "Love to Love You," seamlessly integrating her singing into the beatboxing. Piers says she is the best they've seen, and David admires how effortlessly she did both parts. Sharon admires her timing, and she is put through, which is great because she is both cute as a button and quite talented.
To offset her appeal, we have a bunch of unsuccessful acts: John England, a Liberace-style piano player. He plays well, but other than his Uncle Sam get-up, there's nothing of real interest. Then there is a mime who claims to be the originator of popping and locking breakdance style action, but then proceeds to do none of those moves as he dances and sings "Superfreak." Piers tells him to stick to the silent miming. Then next is a banjo player who does the throat singing from Asia. He actually does it well, but the judges aren't impressed with his cross-cultural talent.
Then in quick montage, there's a group that dances with snakes, a guy in a loud shirt who sings in falsetto, and a guy who just seems to make noises with his body.
And now, the big controversy of the evening: Boy Shakira. What is Boy Shakira? A chunky man who does Shakira's act, including wig and bikini top. While his dancing is actually spot on and kind of mesmerizing, he never starts singing, which is confusing. However, Sharon and Piers were entertained enough to put him through. This outrages David, which is somewhat understandable. There are other acts that have been equally oddly entertaining, but too weird to put through. So it's hard to understand why Boy Shakira made Piers suddenly softened.
David is so upset he takes off for a little while, and when he returns, he seems a little...well...off. When a group of young dancers isn't put through, he is dismayed and yells at his fellow judges.
Things come back together with the next act. It's a sweet-looking big guy, a stay-at-home dad who breaks out the song "Walking on the Moon." It's fantastic. Piers is completely impressed and thinks he might have sung this better than Sting himself. It's an overwhelming yes.
He's followed by another strong act - the Second Story Guys. They are stilt dancers, and it's a pretty cool display. They are put through.
And now a quick montage of other acts that were put through, including a tumbling act, a young man who does a balancing act (including a tiny dog sidekick), an older guy who does a great baton twirling act, and large barbershop group.
Hot Pink Feathers, a burlesque samba act, is buzzed off quickly; they're just not special or talented enough to make it to the next round.
Better luck to Faultline, an acapella rock group. They do well with their "edgier" version of acapella singing, and the judges like it enough to put it through, although Sharon warns them to watch their melody line.
And another montage of the acts that don't make it and have some technical difficulties during the performance: a fire eater whose fire gets a little away from him, a guy who paints and blends drinks on a treadmill (and knocks over his own easel), and a backwards talker whose recording device malfunctions.
A magician also seems to have some difficulty with his equipment. While he puts together a mannequin in a case, he loses his head. Or, at least, a head, when the dummy's head rolls offstage. The judges think they have an amateur on their hands, but when a little person appears from the case, they realize they, in fact, been wonderfully tricked by a great act of distraction. He's through to Vegas.
A last couple acts make it through as well, including an 80-year old woman who does a sort of singing/comedy routine, and a young Pakistani man who does Bollywood dancing.
With that, the Chicago auditions for America's Got Talent are over. Come back here next week for the next stop!
- Leslie Seaton, BuddyTV Staff Columnist
(Image courtesy of NBC)