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'America's Got Talent' recap: New York? Fuhgeddaboudit

June 23, 2011 |  6:49 am

You might have expected to be bowled over by big talent as the "America's Got Talent" audition caravan cruised into New York, city of performing-arts dreams, Wednesday night. As one denizen pronounced in the local vernacular at the outset of the show, "New York's got talent -– fuhgeddaboudit!"

But honestly, if we're lucky, we probably will forget about most of what stood for New York talent in this episode. When a highlight is watching germaphobic judge Howie Mandel make his entrance by rolling down the theater aisle in a plastic bubble -– "I didn't touch anyone!" he announced triumphantly, clambering out -– well, you know things are as grim as a late-night outer-borough subway ride in the heat of summer in a car without air conditioning. Or something like that.

When did the old adage about the Big Apple become: "If you can make it there, it's probably because everyone else has set a really low bar"? Um ... just now, I guess. (Start spreadin' the news.)

But speaking of Ol' Blue Eyes, Frank Sinatra pulled through for ol' New York last night, inspiring the evening's best performance. In fact, Landau Eugene Murphy Jr., a hardworking, long-suffering car washer from Logan, W.Va., may have been among the best performances the show has produced all season. He came out chewing gum and declaring that he'd "never auditioned for nothin'" before, and then brought the house down with Sinatra's "I've Got You Under My Skin." But it wasn't just the surprise factor that made Murphy stand out; it was the stakes. He wept as the judges showered praise on him, especially after Mandel told him, "Your life is never going to be the same, I'm telling you." Honestly, I nearly wept myself.

Also pretty good -– and with a similar hard-luck story -- was Snap Boogie, a cute 18-year-old high school student who has helped his family pay the bills by street dancing, declaring that dancing is what he loves to do more than anything. The judges rightly praised his "passion" and "free spirit." Piers Morgan called him "dangerous" and "a little bit wild." Agreed.

And then we got the requisite "Piers Morgan and Sharon Osbourne face off over an effeminate male performer" story line. In this case, it was not a female impersonator, but rather a male pole dancer (a "pole-fessional," Steven Retchless called himself) in silver Spandex shorts, body glitter and high heels. Morgan apparently found Retchless, who looked a little frightened to be up on that stage doing his thing, distasteful, but Osbourne called him "Steve the Magnificent" and praised his androgyny. Mandel put him through to Vegas, perhaps just to spite Morgan.

The flurry of more forgettable acts included the dispiritingly cheesy Broadway wannabes "Triple Threat," a woman who declared herself to be one of only a handful of female sword swallowers but who wasn't doing her gender any favors when it came to performance style, a guy who scarfed down pumpkin pie, a guy with a petrified parrot and a magician whose main talent appeared to have been picking pretty girls for his act. I was sad that the Boston Typewriter Orchestra was a bust. I would have liked to have seen more of Al the Human Knot, of whom we got only a cringe-inducing snippet. (On second thought, no, maybe I wouldn't have.)

And I'm not sure what I thought of Elew, a growling, classically trained rock-and-roll pianist (with a speaking voice like James Earl Jones) whom the judges declared to be "a genius."

What did you think?

-- Amy Reiter