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'American Idol' recap: Viva Las Vegas and our top ... 42?

February 17, 2012 |  9:38 am

A recap of "American Idol" Season 11 Las Vegas week, in which the top 42 emerge
Vegas. In some ways, it's "American Idol's" cruelest round. Having been put through auditions, flights to California, the exigencies of Hollywood's group and solo rounds, and a bus ride to Sin City –- all the while watching lesser candidates sent home –- at this point, those that have remained can probably be forgiven for eyeing the finish line and tasting victory.

Although those "I'm going to be the next American Idol" declarations seem far-fetched during those cattle-call auditions, by the time auditions roll into Glitter Gulch, they seem, if not entirely, at least somewhat plausible. Someone's got to win this thing, and whoever does will have been among the 70 eager young people the judges deemed worthy of stepping onto the "Viva Elvis" stage to sing songs from the '50s and '60s.

Alas, whoever wins will not be among the 28 whose hopes we watched slip away Thursday night, when the Vegas Strip (and three reluctant celebrity judges) stripped them of their shot at the "Idol" crown. Yes, on "American Idol," the city of Lost Wages is truly the city of Lost Dreams.

Geez, have I been watching this show too long? I'm starting to write the way Ryan Seacrest talks!

Bottom line, we saw a variety of old songs performed in a variety of old and new ways and with admirable restraint, overall, when it came to bobby socks and poodle skirts and greaser jackets. Most of the contestants did pretty well, but hey, someone had to get cut. And so Randy Jackson, Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler trimmed away one hopeful here and one there, only to realize -– Holy Graceland! -– at the end of day one, it looked like they hadn't cut nearly deeply enough to get to their magic number: 40.

So what did they do? They called all the contestants back in and told them that -– after all that "you're through to the next round" excitement and jumping around and whatnot -– some of them weren't really safe. Depending on how day two in Vegas went, there could be more cuts.

Which is exactly what happened. And the contestants that were sent home after having initially been put through? Well, they weren't very happy about it. Nor was last year's near-miss Colton Dixon, whose sister, lush redhead Schyler Dixon, had been deemed safe after dressing like an Andrews Sister and singing Frankie Lymon & the Teenagers' “Why Do Fools Fall in Love," only to get chopped the next day. "It's not right. You know it's not right," said Colton, who had accompanied his sister to auditions this year with no plans to participate himself but wound up taking a coveted spot in what turned out to be the final 42.

Well, all 70 couldn't have made it through, and so (back to Seacrest mode) we said goodbye to promising early talents such as apparently erstwhile J.Lo crush Johnny Keyser (he seemed surprised, but I think he may have sealed his fate by continuing to sing in the midst of a groupmate's medical emergency back in Hollywood); Gabi Carrubba ("I'm embarrassed," she said tearfully after getting the bad news, and she'll be really embarrassed when she realizes that the producers cut the Vegas rehearsal tape to make her look like a diva); Angie Zeiderman (whose microscopic yet apparently shakable "tail feathers" Tyler found praiseworthy, but not praiseworthy enough to keep around); Brittnee Kellogg (who bitterly griped that every performance she'd given had been "perfect. I don't get it"); and a host of others.

Left standing and celebrating, for now, were many enduring favorites: Jen Hirsch, Reed Grimm, Creighton Fraker, Heejun Han (who miraculously tamed "Queen of Mean" vocal coach Peggi Blu, turning her into a purring kitty cat), Adam Brock, Aaron Marcellus, David Leathers Jr., Lauren Gray, Hallie Day, Baylie Brown, Elise Testone ... oh and a lot of others.

Mystifyingly, at the end of the day, the irritating cowboy Richie Lawson was still standing. The only plausible explanation is that Lopez and company see in him the second coming of last year's winner, Scotty McCreery. And though I wasn't a big McCreery fan, I will say that Lawson doesn't strike me as being either as talented or as charming as McCreery. I hope the judges baby-lock-them-doors on him soon.


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"American Idol" recap: Symone Black recovers; the flu strikes!

"American Idol" recap: Symone Black's fall and 4 other surprises

-- Amy Reiter

Photo: During Thursday's episode, "American Idol" contestants learn their fate in front of the judges on Cirque du Soleil's "Viva Elvis" stage in Las Vegas. Credit: Michael Becker / Fox