Review: America’s Got Talent Live Opening Night

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Three months ago, I wouldn’t have known where to find NBC in the TV guide.

I’m not much of a TV watcher and have never watched an entire season of a show on one of the major networks.

But AGT caught my attention.

You see, we got into AGT by chance when we were in the UK where they run last season’s show a year late.

I’ve also been a huge fan of Piers Morgan’s written work. He’s a very funny writer, although he also reminds me of the slightly awkward, former English private school boys I’ve encountered many times during my life.

The kids loved the show and having watched every single episode of the latest season on TV, we have many fond memories of a shared family activity and much improved dinnertime debating skills as we’ve argued for our favorites over a meal.

So when the season came to an end and the winner crowned, we decided to, as we say in England, ‘push the boat out’ and spent a week’s salary on four tickets to the show.

We didn’t regret it.

The show was held in the Paramount, Oakland, CA. Beautifully restored, it  reminded me of the best theatres in London’s West End.

The crowd.

Was scary.

I am used to audiences politely applauding so when the inoffensive background musak morphed into the heavy rock AGT theme, the lightening fast switch to screams, whoops and hollers made me start.

I wouldn’t have expected it from the upper middle-aged couples and gay men that seemed to comprise most of the audience.

Make no mistake, this isn’t a slick show.

It was the first night with a pared down set and these are not seasoned performers.

Jerry Springer compered, genuinely choking up as he described his family’s arrival on American shores and the chance we all have to achieve The Dream.

He was pretty funny, too. Especially about his own show.

It was endearing, wholesome-apple-pie, American goodness.

All the acts were enthusiastically welcomed. Prince Poppycock, this being the San Francsico gig, got the biggest cheer although I suspect his reception will be repeated all over America.

They are doing 25 shows in 5 weeks, an exhausting schedule which makes me wonder how the kids, of whom there are several, will stand up.

Spoiler alert:

If you are going to the show and want to be kept in the dark, stop reading NOW.

The show was opened by dance crew Studio One Young Beast Society. I am a dance fan, and could have watched and watched and watched them. They were simply awesome and deserve their own show.

Christina and Ali, the two sisters who live under the shadow of cystic fibrosis did a lovely harmony with Taylor Matthews who was much more impressive live than he was in the TV show. The girls in the audience really liked him and now I understand, too.

He has a good future ahead of him singing and songwriting.

The twelve year-old dancers, Anna and Patryk were a bit lost in the set. They are technically outstanding but the fact they are kids both added to the ‘wow’ factor and took away from it.

They do big, showy dances but the fact their bodies are small and they lack emotional breadth meant that their impact wasn’t as great as it will be in a few years. Add a few inches and a dash of hormones and they will be vibrant.

My emotional favorite from the show is Jeremy Vanschoonhoven.

The boy (as he seems to me) who lives in a barn and wants to give his wife ‘the kind of life she deserves,’ appeared on stage, his arm in a sling straight from surgery but not on his bike. He’d taken a fall during rehearsal and broken his hand.

He’d not been able to fight gravity ;-).

He was gracious, a huge favorite with the crowd for simply having the chops. Later we saw him spending a lot of time with the crowd at the back door in compensation.

I hope he makes a lot of money quickly because his career will be short at this rate.

I finally ‘got’ Fighting Gravity.

I couldn’t work out how they do it. But they did. They are an act that needs a big production to really show off. I hope they get it. Awesome.

Prince Poppycock is tall.

At least, in his heels and wig, he is. The performer who Sharon Osborne called the ‘male Lady Gaga,’ did his ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ set and a parody of ‘The Barber of Seville.’

He was great and a huge crowd pleaser but to do himself justice and give us the show we all want, he, too, needs a big production so he can really let go and have fun. He will get it. I have no doubt.

Jackie Evancho is tiny.

She was in floaty white. They put her on a box to reach the microphone so we could see her.

It is hard to believe that it is her singing. I could hear her inhale and occasionally ‘poomp’ the mike when she exhaled which convinced me that it wasn’t some recording but the dissonance between the evidence of my eyes and ears was confusing.

This little girl with this absolutely pure, soaring voice was transfixing. The audience was completely still and silent during her set – she sang two opera pieces and a song; it was stunning.

Michael Grimm got the biggest star treatment from the shows producers. He was very humble, confident and impressive. He sung three songs, ‘You Can Leave Your Hat On,’ ‘Hold On I’m Comin’ and Al Green’s ‘Let’s Stay Together.’

Magician Michael Grasso. Was. OUTSTANDING.

My God, how did he do that? He started with his card riff, then did two illusions. It was a small set, we weren’t far away and yet none of us could work out how he did it. I’m not a huge magic fan and was watching closely for the trick but I was simply blown away.

He needs his own, big production. He was on fairly early in the show but he could have been the show stopping finale. He was ‘WOW.’

All in all, this was like your local talent show writ large.

Loads of fun, highly entertaining, slightly schmaltzy, all underpinned by the messages of diversity, tolerance and dream catching that were frequently mentioned between acts. For all-round family entertainment and a rollicking good time, it couldn’t be beaten.

All of these acts have futures and fortunes to be made.

Some have incredible lives ahead of them.

What do you think? Who were your personal favorites? Leave me a comment!

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{ 32 comments… read them below or add one }

Mary E. Ulrich
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October 2, 2010 at 12:27 pm

Sounds like an amazing evening.

Jerry Springer used to live on the next street when he first lived in Cincinnati. I played tennis and went to some workshops on learning disabilities with his wife. His daughter was born only hours after Tommy so we were across the hall from each other in the hospital. Jerry was real then. Lived in a tiny house. Read, “Are you my mother” book to Tommy and Katie while holding them on his knees. I don’t recognize some of what he does now. But I’ll bet he was a great MC at AGT.

Give us another post on what your kids thought. I’d love to know their reaction to seeing these people on TV and then in live theatre.
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Alison Golden October 2, 2010 at 4:05 pm

BTW, Jerry Springer knows exactly what he’s doing, knows he’s kind of demeaning himself by doing his show, pokes fun at himself and his show, and probably thinks he’s onto a good thing at the same time. Smart, quick-witted guy, taking the money and running, methinks. Whether that’s honorable is quite another thing. I have never watched his show.

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Phyllis Pulley October 7, 2010 at 7:32 am

Dear Alison I read your column again love it love Poppycock and Michael Grasso. My hubby died 4 years ago soo great and we we’re married 52 years and I’m still suffering but he loved his computer and Jerry Springer Show so some like Choc and some vanilla. He had great hobbies but love the crazziness of Jerry Springer Show and I loved the guard on it who went onto have his own show wish I could remember his name he gave good advice oh well. Thank you Phyllis Pulley

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Phyllis Pulley October 7, 2010 at 7:34 am

I forgot Alison Jerry Springer was a Lawyer and your right he makes alot of money with his show or reruns. Thanks Phyllis

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Phyllis Pulley October 27, 2010 at 5:32 am

Dear Alison I can’t seem to e-mail you I’ll have to get help later on with my computor. I would love to see a TV Special with Susan Boyle Jackie Evancho just a great show. Fondly Phyllis Pulley I’ll have to find out whats wrong with my computor thanks for answering

Alison Golden October 7, 2010 at 8:46 am

Good to see you back, Phyllis! Glad you liked what you read enough to come back 🙂

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Phyllis Pulley October 26, 2010 at 8:22 am

Dear Alison your great. Glad to meet you Love Phyllis Pulley

Alison Golden October 2, 2010 at 2:55 pm

That’s a good idea, Mary. I’ll help them work on a post from their perspective for tomorrow. 🙂

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bruce do October 2, 2010 at 3:45 pm

I live in San Jose, Ca. I did not get to go the live peformance of AGT tour at Oakland, Ca on Oct 1. I did not have the money to pay for this live show. I would love to see all the 10 acts live. It would have been a great experience. I hope that somebody will post the video on youtube. My favorite has to be Jackie Evancho. I an so amazed by her talent and beauty. God bless everybody.

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Alison Golden October 2, 2010 at 3:57 pm

She was amazing, Bruce. No-one breathed it seemed while she was performing. She was on early because she had to go to bed! 🙂

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Bruce do October 2, 2010 at 4:10 pm

Hi Alison Golden. Thank you for responsing my email. You are very lucky to watch AGT tour live. I will try to save some money and buy ticket for the live AGt tour in the future. God bless you and your family…

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Sharon Getz October 2, 2010 at 4:18 pm

Bruce thanks for the article – loved your take on it. Michael Grimm has always been my favourite – I loved his soulful voice right from the beginning and he only gets better and better. Kudos to them all though – it was the best year for AGT since they started!

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Alison Golden October 2, 2010 at 4:24 pm

Hi Sharon 🙂
We saw Michael Grimm out back afterwards, chatting to some people and swigging a bottle of Coke. Some people were calling to him and he waved. He wasn’t coming near though and I can’t say I blame him. He seemed pretty relaxed with all the attention. Didn’t seem at all shy like he did in the beginning.

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Sharon Getz October 2, 2010 at 4:28 pm

Yes, I heard he was blowing them kisses – too funny!

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Sharon Getz October 2, 2010 at 4:20 pm

Sorry Alison – I meant thanks to you not Bruce lol!

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Alison Golden October 2, 2010 at 4:25 pm

No worries 🙂

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Diana Rodriguez-Zimmerer October 2, 2010 at 4:29 pm

Hello,

I was there last night. Prince Poppycock is a superstar. He will be the breakout performer from this group make no mistake. He has a cadre of very talented well connected people in his inner circle and almost 57K Rabid Facebook Fans “Poppies” backing him and willing to do whatever they can in their respective abilities to help launch his career. The world needs to get used to Prince Poppycock – he’s about to take over.

– an adoring Poppy

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Alison Golden October 2, 2010 at 4:38 pm

Yes, huge sets, huge ensemble, wigs, costumes, the lot. That is what he really needs to fly. And I’m sure he will. Thank you for stopping by. And hope you’re not as exhausted as I am today, Diana. 🙂

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Jacqueline A October 2, 2010 at 4:54 pm

OH I will be going to see AGT next week here at Caesar’s Palace. I can’t wait to see MICHAEL GRIMM !!! I’m so thrilled he won, awesome voice, humble guy. I was hooked on his first audition on AGT, and now I’m a fan for life. It was your time to shine Michael, your years of struggles have finally paided off. May GOD bless you always.

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Alison Golden October 2, 2010 at 5:31 pm

Have a great time, Jacqueline 🙂

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Jacqueline A October 2, 2010 at 5:46 pm

Thanks Alison !!
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melissa October 2, 2010 at 5:52 pm

🙂 My favourite is prince poppycock, but that doesnt mean I wouldnt love to see all of these acts perform. To bad they dont come to canada.
Im confident each one of these acts have a very fortunate futur ahead of them for they are all extremely talented (and I dont doubt it) even though I was rooting for John throughout the show, who has an amazing voice, unique style, imaginative/creative, sweet, witty, and the list continues but i wont bore everyone with my thoughts 🙂
Hope anyone going has an amazing time!

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Alison Golden October 2, 2010 at 6:34 pm

Thanks for stopping by, Melissa 🙂

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Jan October 2, 2010 at 6:23 pm

Thanks for your review. I want to go so badly, and a show is coming about 4 hours from where I live, but its in the middle of the week, and I can’t take off of work to go see it. Michael Grimm is my favorite, but I’d love to see all the acts. I also love Taylor Matthews. Did he not have his own solo act? He only sang the duet with Christina a Ali? I feel badly for Jeremy. When he makes no mistakes, his act is great. But you have to be spot-on when doing his act or you are taking such a big chance on getting injured badly. Jackie is amazing. When I first heard her on YouTube, I didn’t believe it was real. But she does have an angel’s voice. I’m glad so many of them who wanted success for follow them after AGT seem to have a shot at success. I’d rather watch all of them than most of the big stars in the music industry today. Much more talent in that group IMO. Best of luck to them all!

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Alison Golden October 2, 2010 at 6:33 pm

Hi Jan:

Taylor sang by himself for, I think, three songs in total and one song with the girls. They were on before him at one point and they segwayed by singing together, then Taylor took it away on his own. Most acts came on twice although they had roughly the same stage time. Yes, I agree about watching them rather than the big stars.

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Jacqueline A October 2, 2010 at 7:04 pm

Ha ha ha- Love it !!!
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Phyllis Pulley October 5, 2010 at 5:50 am

Thank you for the columns the posting comments I adored PrincePoppycock he was the Best Michael Grasso, Jackie Evancho an angel has future secure now she’s amazing Prince Poppycock is a full production and I didn’t like his wig and makeup in final or Piers Morgan rudely buzzing him but agt best show this year. Love Phyllis

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Alison Golden October 5, 2010 at 9:19 am

He was rude, wasn’t he? Glad to see you here Phyllis :0)

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Phyllis Pulley October 22, 2010 at 6:44 am

Dear Alison your a doll. It was so great to see Susan Boyle and Jackie Evancho and Debbie Boone on Oprah Show. Oprah is unbelievable. When you go on Ophrah your a Star. Because of her age Jackie tour dates we’re cut down I guess everyone knows that. Many on AGt tour will def go on to be Stars and my favorite Prince Poppycock. Love Phyllis Pulley thanks Alison

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Alison Golden October 22, 2010 at 2:34 pm

Hi Phyllis:

It makes sense that she would do fewer dates but what a shame if it happens to be your night. I wonder if they’ll ever have Jackie and Susan doing a song together. That would be something.

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Michael October 21, 2010 at 9:19 pm

I just saw the live show in Chicago but Jackie did not perform!!! There was a sign on the door that said she wouldn’t be performing. They did not even mention her during the show! Very, very dissapointing but the rest of the show was still great.

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Alison Golden October 21, 2010 at 9:35 pm

Oh no, Michael. What a shame you didn’t get to see Jackie. We didn’t get to see Jeremy but missing Jackie would have left a hole. The rest of the show is great, though. I’m glad you enjoyed it.

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