Out of all the thousands who performed for America’s Got Talent judges—Howard Stern, Sharon Osbourne, and Howie Mandel—to have their shot at Las Vegas and that million dollars, only a tad over 100 made the trip to check in at the Venetian for the first night of auditions on a truly big stage. With only 48 slots for the finals, the cutting has to come fast, and many talents suffered the hurt of not finding their name on any of the prized lists even before the real performances for the finals ensued. Iraqi acrobats The Bandbaz Brothers, Charlie C, and girl band Ivy Rose were sent home in spite of sweet audition moments. Others, like the Olate Dogs and Earth harpist William Close, were offered the jackpot of relief by the news they were headed to New York without further auditions.
The danger acts opened the performances. All Wheels Sports had too much action and too many bodies on wheels to make anything they did stand out in the big outdoor arena, and the judges seemed confused rather than complimentary. The American BMX Stunt Team had a super routine going until a crash of their eldest member, leading to a mangled bike, but the rider still intact. Cristin Sandu was more shaky balancing atop his rolling cylinders than he was during his New York auditions, and he literally stepped down. The All-America Team was awesome in their precision drill with rifles and the danger of dealing with real firearms and real ammunition amped up their chances. Crossbow master Ben Blaque was spectacular in his blindfolded target shooting of splitting notepaper with only one word verbal cues of his assistant standing totally out of his range!
The female singer category nearly collapsed altogether, with even front-runners like Mary Joyner, Cecillia Detwiler, and Luna totally losing their way with nerves. Luna lost most, provoking the panel to send her home immediately after the failed audition. Australian Nikki Jensen sang in fine form with “You Can’t Always Get What You Want,” but the judges questioned whether she might be “too unique” for the tastes of All-America, so time will tell. Howard Stern scolded that it seemed like the ladies “didn’t rehearse,” but Sharon Osbourne said fatigue and frayed nerves were the culprits.
The dance groups had their missteps, too. Funk Beyond Control and All That flung their feet for their very lives, but the real contention seemed to be between family group Loyalty Dance Team and Puerto Rican youngsters 787 Crew. 787 Crew had virtually captured a solid slot, until a forward flip went wrong, laying one of the team flat. The possibility of losing their dream hurt the young man far more than the fall, as the troupe definitely took it up a step in their plaid trousers and commitment to going perpendicular, but the vote will tell if they come through the decision along with the pain.
The strongest of the novelty acts were the painters, in light and in sand. Joe Castillo created another miraculous sand portrait to the strains of “Feelin’ Good.” The Aurora Light Painters tried to make magic again to the tune of “Magic,” and the dog that is cuter than his ventriloquist owner still stole hearts. Horse admitted he hurt a bit after putting his privates through bowling, a biker, and a fire-breather, but the judges still love this kooky guy! Howie Mandel said, “He could be the one to win this thing.”
Something in the air was catching for the singers, because the strong handful of classical singers got caught up in the clamor of lost confidence and old-fashioned stage fright. Simply Sergio was sick, but that couldn’t explain his loss of memory for the lyrics, to which he never confessed. Nurse Luiz Menghin was utterly inspirational in his aria on the first night of Season 7 in New York, and his story was one destined for America’s Got Talent, but the tension of one performance meaning everything for his family took a toll. He was stiff and seldom showed his earlier passion. Andrew De Leon had his stellar moment in song and stolen hearts in his Austin audition, perfect in his operatic tone, and tender in revealing his hidden gift and identity to his family. The huge presence of the silent stage of Vegas seemed to vex the young artist, though, as the music played at the close, but without his voice. Sharon Osbourne insisted he was being judged “too harshly.” Andrew will be among several whose America’s Got Talent dream will depend on the debate, and the kindness, of the judges.