‘America’s Got Talent’ recap: A strange night of performances

As yet another round of “America’s Got Talent” quarterfinals kicked off Tuesday night, Judge Howard Stern (as Nick Cannon is wont to call him) promised viewers, “We’re gonna see chills. We’re gonna see thrills. We’re gonna see spills -- and I’m not just talking about Sharon’s cleavage.” (Oh, that naughty Howard!) But by the end of the evening, even Stern, who was in a promotional mood, had to admit that it had been a “strange” night.

It really was.

We saw some so-so performances, a few strong ones, and a surprising number of crash-and-burns among the 12 acts that performed. Did clear winners to move on to the semifinals emerge? Well, yes and no. Here’s how the acts broke down (in order of performance):

The Untouchables: This talented group of Latin-dancing tykes from Miami -- the actual offspring of last season “AGT” contenders the Miami All-Stars -- were hailed by the judges for their polish and “professionalism.” But in a pre-roll interview, Howie Mandel said that with performers as young as 8, he worried for these kids. I share his concern. There’s something a bit discomfiting about seeing kids so young dance not just so spiffily (all that work!), but also so sexily. Then again, they’re surely among the best dancers in the competition, so they seem likely to advance.


Rock Star Juggler Mike Price: Not only did he drop a pin, he also dropped the ball on generating any kind of excitement in this act. Total ho-hum. He’s not making it through. Bonus points for almost setting the stage on fire, though. “Is there supposed to be a fire in the can?” Mandel wondered. Apparent answer: No.

Inspire the Fire: I’ve found this singing/dancing act to be insipid and cheesy from the start. The judges finally agreed with me after watching them do their shaky “Up With People” thing with Katy Perry’s “Firework.” Uninspiring is putting it mildly.

Cristin Sandu: This 18-year-old comes from a long line of Russian circus performers, but he’s also a college student studying medicine. And thank goodness he has a backup career. His balancing act crumbled, leaving everyone -- especially him -- disappointed. He managed to hold it together and refrain from crying, though, as the judges thanked him for showing up and giving it a try. That, at least, was a mercy.

Elusive: This hearing-impaired dancer seems to really feel the music -- and he did a great job of pumping up the audience. His act itself, though, could use some work. There were tricks, though none incredibly impressive, but it seemed to lack a certain flow. The judges portrayed him as a rival to contortion-dancer contestant Turf. We’ll see whether he has a chance to prove it.

Jake Wesley Rogers: This 15-year-old high school sophomore from Missouri got mixed reviews from the judges for his take on Britney Spears’ “Toxic.” Stern, suffice it to say, is no fan of that song. But Osbourne feels Rogers has “great potential.” The audience will decide.

All Wheel Sports: These extreme bike acts always seem to stall out a certain point in the competition. The judges say it’s because the impressiveness of the spectacle doesn’t make the jump from the stage to the TV screen. That may be. This act seemed well put together and left the judges breathless with excitement. But the camera just didn’t seem to know what to show us, making it all seem a bit unfocused. Still, given the caliber of the rest of the performers, these guys have a shot at moving on.

Wordspit and the Illest: The genre-bending rap group took a risk and did an original song. Veteran judges Mandel and Osbourne thought that was a very bad idea, positing the band would lose a great deal of audience support. Newbie Stern, however, saluted the band’s move and said they showed they could write good music and stay tight onstage. It will be interesting to see how it plays out in the vote.

Jacob Williams: The judges loved this young comedian all over again, but I didn’t find him nearly as funny as I did the first time around. His jokes were sort of convoluted and confusing. (Batman suit? What?) Williams’ humor was much less widely accessible than his rival comedian in the competition, Tom Cotter. But who knows? Maybe the joke will be on me.

All Beef Patty: This drag queen -- whom Cannon called a “big old Nicki Minaj” and Osbourne compared to a “chunky Cher” -- can sing, but alas, it turns out she really can’t move. The judges rightly concluded she is a terrific cabaret act that may not be able to make the move to a bigger stage. It’s true: All Beef just seemed to get swallowed up here.

Spencer Horsman: A young would-be Houdini, Horsman promised us a great escape -- and grave danger. Instead we saw him “wiggling,” as Osbourne termed it, behind a scrim -- and then emerging triumphant. It’s not clear what he triumphed over. And he was bummed out that he scraped his arm on the chainmail from which he escaped, as if that was supposed to impress us. Doubt he’ll escape being sent home tonight.

Lightwire Theater: The judges gave glowing reviews to this neon-lighted dance company. (“Spectacular!”) Their luminescent costumes were lovely, but I thought the dancing and the story were a bit lacking. Regardless, compared to the rest of the night’s acts, they definitely lit up the stage.

We’ll see who makes it through to the semifinals tonight. Do you have any favorites?


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