‘America’s Got Talent’ recap: YouTube stars go from screen to stage

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Not surprisingly, on the ‘America’s Got Talent YouTube Special’ Tuesday night, the name Jackie Evancho was mentioned more than a few times. Evancho is the pint-sized opera singer with the startlingly mature voice who, at age 10, broke out of last year’s ‘YouTube Special’ to finish second for the season overall and become the best-selling debut artist of 2010.

Would Tuesday night’s show bring us another Evancho?

Alas, no. But it did bring us several YouTube-launched performers who deserve, at minimum, to advance in the competition, as four of the 12 will do when voting results are revealed Wednesday night.

The evening’s best acts included:

-- Kevin Colis, a Texas-based singer who explained in a pre-roll video that he’d given up on his musical dreams when he turned 30, but whose fiancee had encouraged him to give ‘AGT’ a try. ‘This is my last shot, and I’m going to go for it,’ he said, before turning in a solid performance of Bruno Mars’ ‘The Lazy Song,’ looking quite comfortable onstage and earning high praise from two of the three judges, Piers Morgan and Sharon Osbourne. ‘You might be two songs away from a million dollars,’ Morgan said.

-- Gymkana, a ‘no experience necessary acrobatics team’ from the University of Maryland, whose shape-shifting moves on a ladder Osbourne said evoked the showgirl-created geometric patterns of legendary Hollywood director/choreographer Busby Berkeley. ‘What you do with ladders -- I won’t even walk under one, let alone dance on one,’ judge Howie Mandel quipped, adding, ‘You have a real shot at this.’


-- Matt Wilhelm, a black-lit stunt-biker from Chicago, who set out to prove that ‘break-dancing on a bike ... has a place in Vegas.’ Unfortunately, his live act, which earned luminescent reviews from the judges, lacked the glow-in-the-dark clarity of his winning YouTube video: His fancy mottled costume was hard to see in the dim lighting, blunting the act’s impact. Still, here’s hoping he advances in the competition, if only so that he has a chance to correct his lighting/costume issues and show us (in a way that doesn’t make us squint) what he’s capable of.

Also fairly impressive were stylistically intense 14-year-old dancer Beth Ann Robinson, contemporary cloggers TNC Elite, amped-up parkour act Aeon, and the creepy contact-wearing West Springfield Dance Team, any of which could reasonably be the fourth act to advance. It’s probably safe to say we won’t be seeing more of illusionist Brett Daniels, whose Marilyn Monroe-inspired magic act even blond-preferring gentlemen may have found dull; skateboarding bulldog Gabe Rocks, the evening’s token animal act; 8-year-old contortionist Breena Bell, about whose performance the judges turned themselves into pretzels to say something nice; Kalani Basketball Freestyle, a ‘one-man Harlem Globetrotters’ who dropped the ball ... twice; and Powerhouse, a high-school show choir that (we were told) helped inspire Fox’s ‘Glee,’ but that also served as a very sad reminder of the gaping disparity between fictional high-school show choirs populated by professional singers and aided by Auto-Tune and actual high-school show choirs populated by kids whose only pitch corrective is ... um ... youthful enthusiasm? (Yes, your high-school choir assuredly sounded more like these kids than like Lea Michele and company. There goes that retrospective fantasy....)

So what did you think? Who are your picks to go through to the next round?


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-- Amy Reiter