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'America's Got Talent' Premiere: Shanice & Maurice Have 'First Huge Moment'

Mon, May 14, 2012 10:52pm EDT by 23 Comments

With new judge Howard Stern at the helm, ‘America’s Got Talent’ returned for its seventh season May 14 in an explosive array of male strippers, scorpion eating, dancing, singing and archery practice.

Returning judges Howie Mandel and Sharon Osbourne proved, once again, to be the right celebrities for the job of searching America for the best undiscovered talent. In the two-hour America’s Got Talent premiere — led by poster boy and host Nick Cannon — the talent ran the gamut from over-the-top exotic male stripping, impressive tap dancing, dog puppets, and raspy vocalists. The ensemble scoured the country visiting Los Angeles and St. Louis in tonight’s grand premiere and focused solely on the audition rounds.

What this show is able to do, unlike many other competition shows, is pull the viewer in and keep them wanting more. So, let’s get to it, shall we?

Day 1 – Los Angeles Auditions

Aoni Jackson, 34 – Magician:
Magic is always a crowd pleaser. The performance began as family-friendly showcase, but quickly turned sour. Aoni asked to borrow someone’s ring, and when Howie offered his, he made his way onto the stage. Aoni drug out the act to incite boos from the audience. Howard was having none of it and quickly pressed his “X” button. The dude, in an attempt to save his act, went back behind a curtain and emerged as a male stripper! Who ordered this ridiculata?

“Are you a stripper or a magician?” Sharon asked. (FYI, he’s both.)

Miss Les, 55, “Bird Lady” – Music Teacher and Bird Trainer:
This was her first performance with 22 cockatiels. She headed on stage with all of them perched on her shoulders. Turned out, she’s a “singer,” and I use that term loosely. Certainly, she wasn’t terrible; she’s quite decent. Her birds assisted with the background chirping. Howard presses his “X” and was able to deliver legitimate feedback without being mean. Quirky and fun, “Bird Lady” was just not quite right as a million-dollar act.

Montage #1:
Dude with Guitar
Guy in Sparkle Ensemble
Gorilla Man
Zebra Dancing
Guy on Keyboard
Blonde with Ukelele

“Sexy Sax Man”:
Shirtless and flaunting his assets, this guy came out on stage with too-much-to-handle confidence. Too bad his talent didn’t quite sync up. In the brief clip, his saxophone playing was quite enjoyable. After getting a “No” from the judges, he made his way into the audience, up the center aisle, and out the front door.

William Close, 42 – Musician:
He brought his five-month pregnant wife Sara along for the ride. He played a ginormous earth harp, and the strings were draped across the stage up to the balcony.Unlike previous acts, his crafty musicianship earned him a standing ovation from the judges. His hands worked rapidly across the larger-than-life strings to produce a jaw-dropping performance. The crowd went wild and chanted “play it again.” He was easily one of the best and most original acts of the night.

(Thank you, DVR! I can now play that on repeat.)

Elements Dance Cru, Ages 12-18
They take clogging and adapting it to different themes and genres. The bang their routine with some impressively intriguing tap dancing. Decked out in what can be summed up as “gothic schoolgirl,” these girls brought the heat. They’re performance was crisp and melded into a complete ensemble to create a captivating piece of art. Afterwards, the crowd ate it up and the judges gave them a “Yes.” Howie gave them some great constructive critisicm to fine tune their individual parts but loved it.

Montage #2:
All Wheels Sports
Elizabeth the Aerial Daredevil

Chris Lavar – Freestyle Rapper:
He decided to dedicate his rap to Howard. “Say hi to Beetlejuice,” he speak-sang. He was pretty hilarious, even if his rhythm was pretty pedestrian. The thematic material was, indeed, clever. The judges gave him a standing O. He lets the audience know that it was 100% off the top of his head.

Well, color me impressed.

Jorge Narvaez and daughter Alexa – Singers:
Guitar in hand, he sat on stage next to his daughter Alexa. They are such a priceless act — as she started out the performance with an adorable whistling melody. Their vocals weren’t awe-inspiring, but the cuteness factor was off the charts. The judges unanimously vote them through to Vegas!

Day 2 – St. Louis, Missouri:

Ben Blaque, 32 – Crossbow Shooter
“Anything could go wrong today during the performance,” he said in his pre-performance package. His lovely assistant (and friend) came out on stage to hold up targets as he shot real arrows at them. Despite it being incredibly dangerous, she didn’t even flinch once. At one point, she held an inflated balloon in her mouth. He shot with ease and hit it dead on. If wasn’t so nail bitingly uncomfortable, I would have loved it. I was in fear for her life. Howie and Howard gave him a standing ovation. Off to the next round for him!

Light Wire Theatre:
All the lights were turned off. The stage became a dance club with psychedelic flowers, dinosaurs, and flying pterodactyls. Afterwards, when all is revealed, we got to see the people behind the flashy presentation. It’s so refreshing to see something so different from all the other hoopla that people bring to the table. Fantastic.

Montage #3:
Scorpion-Eating Man
Man and His Dog-Puppet Irvine
Stick and Move Dance Crew

Sanjuela Armotta, – Side-Show Performer:
Oh boy, this guy was a little out there. With the assistance of his wife and friend, he perform a stunt the audience would “remember for the rest of [their] lives.” Urging the audience to chant, his friend beat on a drum while Sanjeula stabbed metal spikes into his face. This act was definitely not for the faint of heart.

(Are you a bit squeamish? You might want to skip this one.)

Montage #4:
Kazoo Boys
Stormin’ Norman
“Party-Party-Party” Guys

Loyalty Dance Team, Ages 14-23:
Wearing snappy zebra-striped pants, this group bumped and grinded across the stage. Their fancy footwork and overall smooth moves were impressive. They worked as a whole team and as individual members. Their technique could be fine tuned more, but for an audition, they felt their performance and gave it their all.

“Simply” Sergio, 47 – Opera Singer:
Brimming with confidence, he moved his hips and despite boos from the crowd, he charged forward with a lackluster delivery. His wife and Nick joined him onstage and danced in the background. I’m getting flashbacks at some of the many dreadful American Idol auditions.

Howie hadn’t heard enough and had him sing something else. This time, he sang “God Bless America.” He was a million times better, but I’m still not impressed. Apparently, the audience was watching a different show than me. Even Howard went up on stage to give him a hug. He has a heart!

Shanice, 18, and Maurice, 62, Her Father – Singers/Street Musicians:
They sang a touching rendition of “You’ve Got a Friend.” Vocally, Shanice had a deep and buttery lower register, and her father was just as impressive. Their backstory might get them further in the competition than based purely on talent. However, I want to see more of them. They deserve it.

Acts Voted to Vegas:

Ben Blaque the Archer
Jorge and daughter Alexa
Chris the Rapper
Elizabeth the Aerial Daredevil
All Wheels Sports
Elements Dance Cru
William the Earth Harp Player
Stick and Move Dance Crew
Man and Puppet Dog
Loyalty Dance Team
“Simply” Sergio
Shanice and Maurice

Final Thoughts:

Howard Stern completely impressed me tonight. He gave succinct constructive criticism without being mean. At first, I had qualms about his role on such a big show, but my doubts have been quelched. He’s exactly the kind of voice of reason talent shows need to thrive. I’m anxious and excited to see how he performs the remainder of the season.

Hollywoodlifers, which were your favorite acts? And what did you think of Howard tonight? Drop us a comment with your review!