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'America's Got Talent' recap: Atlanta turns up the heat

June 22, 2011 |  9:21 am

"America's Got Talent" auditions hit Atlanta on Tuesday night, with the motley batch of Las Vegas hopefuls performing in front of what host Nick Cannon kept telling us was the show's biggest in-house audience ever. "I hope the talent's as good as the audience," Piers Morgan sniffed.

In fact, the talent in Atlanta wasn't bad, a generally entertaining mix of the impressive, the weird, the cute and the memorably execrable, peppered with just the right amount of surprising behavior from judges Morgan, Sharon Osbourne and Howie Mandel. As my 8-year-old son, Max, said of a season that started poorly but finally generated a little heat: "It's getting better."

Among Hotlanta's most remarkable acts:

Hershae Chocolatae: A drag queen who did a spot-on impression of Macy Gray, then an impressively acrobatic dance to Donna Summer's "Last Dance." (According to her website, she's won a host of awards. Hooray, Hershae!) Hershae's charms were lost on Morgan, who grumbled that he "must be missing something here," prompting Osbourne to respond, "Yes, you are: a bloody sense of humor," and Mandel to dub his fellow judge "Princess Morgan" and quip that "10 minutes after he leaves the building, he puts on a skirt."

 The Fiddleheads: A Cee-Lo-singing bluegrass band of cuties from whom I would like to have heard much more.

Attack Dance Crew: A dedicated, ultra-earnest group of Florida college mates who promised a "brand-new style of dancing" that they call "drilling" and danced, at the very least, with admirable energy and total commitment. Morgan said he found it fresh and cutting edge, but Mandel, surprisingly, turned momentarily mean, shrugging off the act as cheerleading. Our heart went out to the guys -– they looked so worried. But then Osbourne released the tension and sent them through.

Joseph Ravens: A creepy act that looked like nothing so much as a giant vagina birthing … um … I'm not sure exactly what. It was nearly unwatchable, arguably offensive and altogether confounding.

The Captain & Maybelle: A remarkable sword-swallowing act with a domestic twist -– a clothes hanger and some other laundry-related long, sharp object –- that Morgan and Mandel formed a rare union to send through.

Armand & Angelina: Another couple act, but this time two terrible singers who compared their peculiar pop-opera mash-up performances to "making love," noting that by going on TV, "we have an opportunity to make love to millions, oh, my goodness." Morgan echoed my thoughts by wondering whether Mandel and Osbourne had lost their minds in sending them through to Vegas.

Anna Graceman: A smiley-face-button-cute 11-year-old girl from Juneau, Alaska, who played piano and sang Alicia Keys "If I Ain't Got You." Morgan, who was completely smitten, told the 4-foot-3 singer, "Decibels per inch, that is the loudest noise anyone's ever made on the show." Mandel predicted that she'd be the act people would be talking about today. (Are you?)

Also notable: A jump-rope team called the Summerwind Skippers, a 6-year-old music mixologist who calls himself DJ Face, a guy who did "North Carolina hollerin'," a middle-aged white guy whose spastic dancing prompted Morgan's disclosure that, five years ago, he "decided never to be seen dancing in public ever again."

So what do you think? Who were your favorites? And do you agree with Max that the season is finally starting to find its footing?

-- Amy Reiter