The best and worst of “America’s Got Talent” were on display Wednesday night, and somewhere in between was 4-year-old Kaitlyn Maher.
The sweet-voiced cutie who most viewers agree is adorable, but are split on whether she should be in such a high-stakes, high-profile competition, finally got her chance to perform as one of the last 10 contestants vying for the five remaining spots in the semifinals. The results of Wednesday night’s vote will be revealed at 8 p.m. ET/PT Tuesday on NBC.
Kaitlyn strode with a sense of nervous confidence to the front of the stage and give her take on Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World.” She earned nothing but praise from the three judges.
"A lot of people say a little girl of your age shouldn't be in this show or shouldn't be on this stage,” judge Piers Morgan said after she sang. “You have more charm, more star quality, more professionalism than almost all of the other acts I've seen. You're incredible. You deserve to be here."
Sharon Osbourne said Kaitlyn was pitch perfect again and offered some advice: that she should move her arms a little more while performing. Kaitlyn very politely repeated “thank you” as Sharon spoke. It was cute at first and the audience laughed, but it became a little awkward after Kaitlyn repeated “thank you” several times and it was clear she didn’t totally understand what Osbourne was telling her.
David Hasselhoff, always one to keep things in perspective, said Kaitlyn brings the world together and should run for president.
For the first time, America will get the chance to chime in on whether Kaitlyn should continue in the $1 million competition or get ready for Kindergarten.
Donald Braswell secured his spot in the final 40 thanks to America’s vote after another quarterfinalist act had to drop out of the competition due to injury. He promised he wouldn’t let voters down and he made good on that guarantee. Braswell earned a standing ovation from the crowd with a powerful rendition of “The Impossible Dream” from “Man of La Mancha.”
Bluesy pianist and singer Eli Mattson also earned high praise from the judges with an impassioned version of “Nobody Knows.” Considering the range of shenanigans and gimmicks we’ve seen this season, Osbourne summed up Mattson’s performance best, saying, “No dancers, no fire, no backing track. Just talent.”
But it was Nuttin But Stringz, violin-playing brothers from Queens, who closed the night with a high energy display of their hip-hop, rock and classic-inspired strings performance. The judges, along with the crowd, practically jumped to their feet afterward, with Morgan calling them his favorite act in the competition and saying he was “trembling.”
Indiggo, the Romanian twin sisters who have skated by on attitude and personality, got an earful of boos from the crowd throughout their performance of a campy, hokey song they said was written by Dieter Bohlen, a German producer.
The Hoff, who arguably owes his musical career to the Greater Bavaria Area, said, “Oh, no, you don’t want to go there.” And Morgan couldn’t resist chiming in with, “We all know about German taste in music, don’t we?”
Getting back to the twins, though, Morgan called them “the worst dancers and the worst singers in the competition.”
“I think I speak for the whole of America,” Morgan said, “when I say that the sooner you are shipped back to Romania, the better."
Flambeaux, a pyromaniac who once wowed the crowd and the judges with his displays, somehow managed to squeeze all sense of excitement and drama that normally comes along with a stage ablaze.
Five acts from Tuesday night’s episode were sent packing and five moved on to the semifinals. Baton twirler Jonathan Burkin, singer and guitarist Sarah Lenore, Elvis impersonator Joseph Hall and family musical act the Taubl family advanced thanks to America’s vote. That left opera singer Michael Strelo-Smith and the dance group SickStep as the two acts vying for the fifth spot, decided by the judges.
Strelo-Smith on Tuesday talked back to Morgan and Osbourne as they gave him their critiques, which Osbourne didn’t like, and it might have cost him.
Morgan told Strelo-Smith, “Your problem is that you’re probably half as good as you think you are,” adding, “a bit of humility goes a long way in this business.” Morgan gave his vote to SickStep and Osbourne did the same, giving them the two votes they needed to move on, and ending Strelo-Smith’s journey.
Victor Balta is a writer in Philadelphia.