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'American Idol' recap: Hollywood dreams stoked and stymied

February 11, 2011 |  8:54 am


Now that’s what I’m talking about. The first Hollywood Week episode of “American Idol’s” Season 10 flew by at a breathless pace, with audition favorites briskly moving on or left, sadly and sometimes surprisingly, by the wayside. Some I was unhappy to see go, some I was pleased to see move on, and some, I confess, had me quietly celebrating as they walked out the door.

At the outset, Ryan Seacrest promised us “two times the drama” because twice as many contestants had made it through to Hollywood this year and, as he put it, the group featured “the most talent we’ve ever seen.” The producers did their best to ratchet up the stakes:

Ryan: “There’s nothing like Hollywood week.”

Jennifer Lopez: “This will separate the men from the boys and the women from the girls.”

Randy Jackson: "These kids gotta bring it hard, dude, or forget about it -- forget about it!"

Steven Tyler: “We’re hoping that they did their homework.”

Random “Idol” hopeful: “This is heart-wrenching.”

Another random hopeful: “There’s so many emotions going through my head right now …”

Randy, incessantly: “One shot.”

So which early favorites made it through?

Brett Loewenstern, the slim, fuzzy-haired kid who’d been bullied in school, went first, telling the judges he was “shaking in my pants.” But he sang  “Let It Be” confidently and advanced.

Also through: New York’s Rachel Zevita (the returnee from Season 6 whom Jennifer remembered); Thia Megia, who shined in Milwaukee; and Casey Abrams, the Seth Rogan-look-alike from Austin, Texas, who got a standing O in Hollywood.

Not through: The highly irritating Victoria Huggins from North Carolina, who Randy had mystifyingly declared had “the most personality ever on ‘Idol.’” “I am the next American Idol, so duh,” Victoria said before she was mercifully eliminated. Afterward, she tearfully said she still knew she was “special.”

Through: James Durbin, the young parent whose Tourette’s symptoms go away when he sings; Paris Tassin, who sings for her hearing-impaired daughter, Kira; Lauren Alaina, whom the judges anointed “the one” in Nashville, Tenn.

Not through: Stormi Henley, a former Miss Teen USA, who proved that Jennifer was right when, at the Nashville auditions, she said she had “the smallest voice” the judges had heard thus far. (Steven still seemed appreciative, though.)

Also through: Chris Medina, whose fiancee, Juliana, was traumatically injured in a car accident. Steven, who shared a deep moment with Juliana in Milwaukee, thoughtfully asked about her before Chris sang. “I want this for my entire family and especially Juliana,” Chris reminded us. “This is where it all can change or stay the same, and I don’t want it to stay the same.” We’re grateful to see him move on.

Through: Youngsters Jacee Badeaux, Robbie Rosen and Holly Cavanaugh, who finally got her nerves under control and showed her stuff.

Not through: Accountant Steve Beghun; the woman whose uncle was Randy’s high school coach; Los Angeles Belly Dancer Heidi Kazam.

Through: Dueting exes Rob Bolin (one of my favorites) and Chelsee Oaks (also good).

Through and not through: Jacqueline Dunford and Nick Fink, the nauseatingly cutesy couple from the Austin auditions.  She gets a pass but (thankfully) he does not. And then he kind of loses it – pleading with the judges for another chance, singing on his way out, then asking Ryan if, after 10 years hosting “Idol,” he’s become “emotionally washed out.” That last part was pretty funny, but still, good riddance to Nick.

Through: Deep-voiced country guy Scotty McGreery, Jackie Wilson and Jerome Bell, all of whom reprise their audition songs. “These are the real stars right here,” Jennifer says as she makes her picks.

Surprisingly through: Jersey girl Tiffany Rios, she of the “jujubes on her oo-oo-bees,” who declares that she’ll deliver the goods as others have not and then … does.  “I like her. She’s crazy,” Jennifer says, perhaps referring to Tiffany.

Surprisingly not through: Travis Orlando, the formerly homeless teen from the Bronx who sang so well in New Jersey. His voice just fell apart in Hollywood, and the judges declared him not yet ready to progress.

Through but (among others) mostly unseen: Naima Adedapo, who cleaned toilets at a Milwaukee concert hall and dreamed of being onstage; L.A.’s Gutierrez brothers; White House intern Molly DeWolf Swensen: New Jersey weeper Ashley Sullivan; and Emily Anne Reed, Stefano Langone and Julie Zorrilla, all of whom we just heard in San Francisco.

And so it’s on to another day of Hollywood Week, with 160 contestants heard from and 163 more to go.

-- Amy Reiter

Photo: Contestants at the Hollywood rounds of "American Idol" on Thursday. Credit: Michael Becker / Fox