The America's Got Talent
season 12 auditions have almost reached their conclusion, meaning there's a roughly 66% chance we've already seen our eventual winner. The singers with the emotional backstories have dominated, with a ventriloquist, a couple dance groups and a magician or three thrown into the mix of the most memorable.
The round will officially end following a week off to celebrate America's 241st birthday, but for now, we've got another collection of acts hoping to advance or maybe even snag the only remaining golden buzzer courtesy of Heidi Klum.
Will this be the episode that the variety acts steal the spotlight? Or will the vocalists continue to shine? Let's get to it.
Fifteen-year-old magician Henry Richardson kicks off the show, and the Brooklynite first got into the genre while watching AGT with his pops. His dad would guide and critique his routine, before he passed away from lung cancer. Henry took a break for a while, since it reminded him too much of his father, but now he's back and chasing his dream because his dad is a part of it.
He has Mel B. choose and sign a random card before making it change places with one in his hand, then he has Simon pick a doodle from a notebook and prompts Mel to rip open her card to reveal the same image.
Maxim and Maria Popazov are a competitive married couple squaring off against each other because it's too difficult for them to work together. He's an eastern European Matthew Broderick, while she's super hot and looks dead inside. So this should be fun.
He stacks about a dozen chairs and scales them, doing a handstand at the top. She does sexy hand balancing contortion atop a swirly metal contraption, including an insane maneuver where she's completely bent in half over top of herself, suspended only by clutching a mouthpiece with her jaw. And if you're wondering the difference between hand balancing contortion and sexy hand balancing contortion, the answer is: legs.
The Masqueraders are a trio of old-school soul crooners in their 70s who have been together for more than half a century. They did backup vocals for some famous singers in their heyday, but for them, it was always a question of opportunity over talent in a time when segregation was the law. Still, they've never stopped dreaming, and they slay Sam Cooke's "A Change is Gonna Come" with brilliant harmonies.
Sara Carson came from a military family and always loved dog training, but her relatives didn't think it was a real career and cut her out of their lives. That led to dark times, until she met pup Hero, who gave her a purpose. It's a typical pooch routine, albeit with a sword fight, that garners two no votes. Simon hops on stage and begs for reconsideration, and Howie complies.
When he was 14, Johnny Manuel signed a record contract as Lil' Johnny and went on tour with Lil' Bow Wow and NSYNC. Then he got dropped and worked retail, and now, in his 30s, he's ready for a comeback. And, of course, he crushes Whitney Houston's "I Have Nothing." He's an insane talent with more polish than anyone we've seen, but it doesn't really seem fair, does it?
Final Draft, which is the software I use to write scripts, is a foursome of 20-something singers who ride or die together. They come from humble backgrounds, but their voices are anything but. One dude belts out James Brown's "It's a Man's Man's Man's World," while a second nails the falsetto as the other two provide backup harmonies. The guy who talks is distracting, but it's more than solid. Simon praises their passion and chemistry.
Three guys who represent the artistic vision of Oskar and Gaspar -- to morph the human body into a masterpiece -- invite Heidi on stage and dress her in a white bodysuit. The theatre goes dark, and they white-screen different outfits, personas and species over her body. It's visually stunning and ridiculously cool, but I don't know what they do to spice it up moving forward.
A slapstick magician and an up-close coin guy advance.
Capping off the show is 53-year-old cab driver Carlos De Antonis, who dreams of being a professional singer with his own show in Vegas. He speaks like a barely discernible foreign taxi driver (and I live in New York City, so I know), but he sings like a barely discernible foreign opera star. It's by design, of course, because he's serenading us in Italian. The size of his voice is matched only by his personality, and he's a winner even though he won't be the actual winner. Love this guy.
Deuntay Diggs is a lieutenant in a Virginia sheriff's office who yearns to be the lord of the dance, but his male stripper-like moves -- in full uniform -- make him look like a grown-up version of Lamar from Revenge of the Nerds. It's four X's, and Simon takes the opportunity to rib Mel on her apparent lack of dancing ability, prompting her to douse him with a cup of water.
It kicks off a montage of Mel/Simon tension, which includes a skirt-wearing guy name Dancin' Dave who is somehow worse than Deuntay. Then there's Harmony something or other, with her cartwheels and slow-descent split, and some ripped topless dude who I can only assume is terrible because we don't see him perform.
Post-Show Update: The ripped dude is named Nico, and he is apparently not terrible.
The Amazing Hoover uses bizarre items to make music, including a turkey baster filled with water and his own arm. He attempts to salvage it with post-X ventriloquism, but it's too, little too late.
Babham, Ejve and Emilio -- better known as Sirqus Alfon -- are dressed like brightly colored dictators and promise an acrobatic act like we've never seen before, and I guess they sort of deliver. They lay on the stage and interact with pre-recorded footage that gives the appearance of a camera pointing down at them, and it would've worked if the timing wasn't so terrible.
Simon buzzes them, but Howie and Mel giggle like school children the entire time. It's a clever premise, but I'm with Simon, who calls them the worst act of the season. Howie, however, dubs them the next Three Stooges, and we'll be seeing them again.
Now that his kids are grown up, 41-year-old Vinny Grosso can get back to his magical passion. The Blinds-to-Go consultant touts his "mutant-like" sense of taste before having Howie pick a card and stripping down completely buck naked to prove he's not wearing a wire. He tapes his eyes shut, licks the card and correctly identifies it as the 3 of Hearts. It's more bizarre than impressive, and I trust that America will believe he's not cheating next time.
Naked and Afraid
Another audition show is in the books, and while the novelty acts took an early lead, the singers surged to steal the final hour. Still, the best of the night was Oskar and Gaspar using Heidi as a canvas. The world is their oyster, provided they do more than body projections, and I can't wait to see what they have cooked up next.
Tune in next time, when the auditions conclude with America one year older (but she doesn't look a day over 212).
Who were your favorites and who do you see going the furthest? Are we destined for a finale filled with singers or will so many talented vocalists cancel each other out? Were you a fan of the new Stooges and the naked magician? Or were they just a bit too absurd for your tastes? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.
(Image and videos courtesy of NBC)