‘America’s Got Talent’ recap: What happened in Vegas, Day 1
On Monday, “America’s Got Talent” finally headed to Las Vegas for “boot camp” – perhaps so named because a whole lot of contestants will be getting the boot. By week’s end, the more than 100 remaining acts will be trimmed back to a mere 48.
Shortly after the throngs of hopefuls had gathered from parts afar – at least one apparently traveling by plane for the very first time -- the judges appeared on a balcony high above them to announce that, after reviewing the auditions, they had divided the acts into groups. The “judges’ favorites” would compete first. Then the “standbys” would vie for any remaining spots. A few contestants, however, would find their names on neither list, would not perform in Vegas at all, and would instead head home immediately.
There were cheers and tears as contestants jostled to locate their names on the lists. “I’m so happy I’m on the list period,” one satisfied contestant noted, “because some people didn’t make it.”
Those not on either list included William Close, the musician who turned a theater into a stringed instrument called an “earth harp” during the Los Angeles auditions; best-ever animal act Olate Dogs; David Smith, the human cannonball; shaky acrobats the Bandbaz Brothers; singer Charlie C; and girl band Ivy Rose. Fear and confusion gripped the contestants, but if you guessed that at least some would be put through without performing again, you guessed right. While Charlie C, the Bandbaz Bros, and Ivy Rose were told they were not up to snuff and had reached the end of their “America’s Got Talent” run, Close, Olate Dogs, and Smith were told they would “automatically” advance to the live shows in New York.
With three slots accounted for, 45 remained available. The “judges’ favorites” were further sub-divided into categories, grouped by type.
The “danger” acts went first, with All Wheel Sports going head to head in an outdoor space against the American BMX stunt team, and the New Guard America drill team, remarkable balancer Cristin Sandu and crossbow act Ben Blaque taking the stage. The judges didn’t tip their hands too far as to who would make it through, saving the big reveal for either Tuesday or Wednesday (yes, three nights of “America’s Got Talent” this week – the show’s on a Vegas roll). Still, Howard Stern let us know he thought All Wheel Sports may have been trying to do too much, a member of the American BMX stunt team wiped out, and Blaque may have been too same-old, same-old for Howie Mandel and Sharon Osbourne. So some of the “danger” acts looked to be in danger.
The female singers -- Mary Joyner, Roxy Doll, Brianna Price, Cecilia Detwiler, Luna and Nikki Jensen -- are next. Joyner, whose triumph at auditions has gotten her an invite to sing the national anthem at the U.S. Olympic track and field trials, muffed it and ended up in tears. So did other contenders, including the flip-flop-wearing Luna, whom the judges chided for not taking the competition seriously enough. Jensen, who moved to the U.S. from Australia to launch her singing career, may have fared best, but the judges wondered if she might be too “unique” for America, whatever that means.
The dance groups took the stage. Buff male cloggers All That again did their buff male clogging thing, this time clad in plaid flannel shirts and jeans, and Funk Beyond Control boringly got their “freak” on dressed as animals. Then the Loyalty Dance Crew and 787 (representing Puerto Rico) faced off. The judges found the former dull, and split in their assessment of the latter’s performance, which included a missed stunt that sent two colliding dancers to the floor. Stern felt that, despite the error, 787 was the sort of act that should stay in the competition. Mandel wasn’t impressed, even apart from the error. We’ll be curious to see where the judges end up after their dance over this dance.
When the novelty acts get their turn, the “King of the Nut Shots,” Horse, ups the ante by incorporating fire into his act, yet Stern is disappointed Horse has chosen to keep his pants on. “I’m not sure I want to lose a million dollars to guys who get kicked in the nuts,” another novelty contender mused. In fact, this may be the night’s strongest category, with fine performances by singing, pink-haired female impersonator All Beef Patty; sand/light artist Joe Castillo; charming talking dog ventriloquist act Todd Oliver and Irving; and competing glow-in-the-dark performance artists Light Wire Theater and Aurora Light Painters. I still didn’t totally understand Aurora Light Painters’ shtick, so I was relieved to hear the judges begin to express some doubts. “We’re looking at the seed of a great idea,” they concluded. “But it’s not perfected yet.”
Sadly, the classical singers -- Simply Sergio, Luiz Meneghin and Andrew De Leon – all choked, to one degree or another. Sergio attributed his poor performance to illness, but he also appeared to have forgotten the lyrics, though he refused to admit his reverting to a hum was not deliberate. Meneghin, who told us his house had been foreclosed upon since we’d seen him in auditions, and that he therefore had a great deal riding on the auditions, was willing to admit, humbly, that his performance had not been his best. And self-taught secret singer De Leon, who said he wanted to win the whole thing on behalf of freaks everywhere, also allowed his nerves to get the best of him. Can the judges forgive him? Stern felt he’d blown his shot by failing to go out and practice in front of an audience. But Sharon Osbourne, champion of the young and the different, seemed more willing to overlook De Leon’s stumble.
Then again, with so many stumbles in a single night, the judges may feel compelled to do a lot of overlooking. We’ll find out who proved worthy of the semifinals on Tuesday or Wednesday.
Who impressed or disappointed you the most?
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