'America's Got Talent' recap: What happened in Vegas
The "standby" acts got their turn onstage in Las Vegas Wednesday night on "America's Got Talent," vying for however many top-48 spots had been left behind by the "judges' favorites." And although you might have expected a second-rate episode from a parade of not-quite-good-enough performers, in fact, what happened in Vegas turned out to be surprisingly tasteful: The hourlong show was trim and tidy, sleek and satisfying, prettily wrapping up this portion of the season's proceedings before the competition proceeds to Hollywood.
After an initial reminder of the stakes -– "As a standby act, you know you have to put up the performance of your life;" "This is the one shot I have and I gotta make it work;" "This just means I have to prove it more" -– the magicians took the stage: Most impressive were Landon Swank, who incorporated red balloons, his pretty fiance and levitation into his performance, and Seth Grabel, whose gymnastic magic act was nearly undone by an assistant's mistake. They both made it through.
Next up were the kids, including that tiny dancer Tanner (a.k.a. Lil T), age 6, who flipped and spun as he had in his audition, but didn't seem to step up his act much. Chipmunk-voiced cuties Avery and the Calico Hearts showed their jazzy/bluesy side, but I found them a little grating, if more interesting to watch than the evening's other cute kid trio, Sh'Boss Boys. Eleven-year-old Anna Graceman was once again completely arresting. This time she performed an Adele song and accompanied herself (alas, somewhat imperfectly) on the piano. Ultimately, the judges turned out to be in a kid-friendly mood, sending all of the aforementioned except Tanner (who, thank goodness, was holding his mommy's hand when he got the disappointing news) on to Hollywood.
The danger acts included a lot of fire (juggling fire, eating fire, breathing fire, turning somersaults while holding fire and landing on a stick suspended between two strongmen). The Smage Brothers' bike tricks frightened Sharon Osbourne; "I get, like, nervous each time they come out," she said, hand over her racing heart. They eventually made it through, as did the Sandou Russian Bar Trio.
In the dance category, Piers Morgan clearly enjoyed the bondage-inflected group of female dancers (he called them "good, sexy fun"), who made it through, as did another (somewhat nondescript) talented group. But no one pleased the judges (or me, I must admit) as much as over-sized windup toy Sam B., who promised to return the next time wearing a bigger shirt. And happily, there will be a next time.
You could make an argument that Sam B. belonged in the novelty category, rather than competing as a dancer, but that category was pretty packed as it was. Although Leonid the Magnificent did not make it through (three times, alas, was not the charm), he did not fail as hilariously as those two oldsters from Tuesday night's final audition show, Meet Me at Fairfax and 3rd. The piano-playing oldster revealed that they had spent all of three hours preparing for their big moment. The other had just peeled a banana, removed his shoes and moved into his handstand-on-a-chair phase when his cellphone rang! He stopped the act to answer it and then backstage, after it was all over, yelled at whoever called him for bringing him "bad luck." (Somebody really needs to show that guy how to turn his ringer off.) Mercifully, the oldsters were not put through. Yo-yo kid Ian Johnson and quirky juggler Thomas John were.
Two pretty male singers also made it through, as did -- Snap! Snap! -- Daniel Joseph Baker, who for some reason flung his foot on the piano in the middle of his performance. Inexplicably, Costa Rica's Ricky Martinesque Mauricio -- he of the shiny, shiny shirt and polyester pants -- also was deemed worthy of progressing to the next stage. Really, judges, why?
What did you think of the judges' verdicts on Wednesday night? Do you think the best acts made it into the top 48?
-- Amy Reiter