Las Vegas is arguably the most exciting city in America, boasting more flash and pizzazz than Simon does criticism. It’s got showgirls. It’s got more musical revues than $10 buffets. It’s got thousands of people arriving in town every day who dream of striking it rich. Heck, it’s even got Celine Dion and Elton John in concert every night!
And yet, the “American Idol” Vegas auditions were the dullest so far this year.
A few singers made it through, but none were all that memorable. Thousands of others had their dreams shattered in typically-sensitive fashion by the judges, but none in a particularly unique way. The city that offers non-stop entertainment to everyone couldn’t give “Idol” viewers a simple hour of entertaining auditioners.
What auditions in Vegas, stays in VegasFor those hoping for an entertaining evening, Alexia “Dylan” Lychetta offered some hope. He started the auditions with a Rasta wig, a fake Caribbean accent, and a “Jamaica good music” T-shirt. He then went out and sang what he called the “American Idol” reggae, and was roundly rejected.
“I feel like I let myself down, because I should have come on as myself instead of as a gimmick,” the suddenly normal-sounding Lychetta said.
Jason Andino tried that very tactic, and it made no difference. Andino’s day job is as a singing gondolier at the Venetian, but he ditched the costume and the fake Italian accent to come and sing “Stand By Me.” He got cut anyway.
Sadly, Lychetta was the only costumed attendee to get any meaningful airtime. The rest of the failed auditioners were the usual laundry list of people bad enough to get on camera, indistinguishable from their counterparts in the other cities.
In fact, it was as if each of the rejects was playing a role: the Vegas revue edition of the stereotypical rejected “Idol” contestant.
Ryan Hart was the curser. He dropped an f-bomb in his first moment on stage, and the next contestant to do that and move on to the next round will be the first. As Paula told him, “you’re not allowed to do that … it’s a family show.”
Anthony Andolino played the part of the overweight guy who tries his best but only makes it on the air because it allows Simon to make an insensitive comment that causes Paula to smack him. His only hope was his hook — he and his girlfriend live in a house with their 75 — count ’em, 75 — pets. That sounds like interesting television, and the judges could have asked him to bring at least the parakeets to Hollywood to see if his roommate there would get violent. No dice.
The twins — there are twins at every Idol audition — were Marnelli and Maureen Pearson. They were cute-as-a-button teenagers who shared a Walkman while waiting in line and wanted to make it onto the show as a tribute to their musician father. But after hearing them sing “Dreams” by The Cranberries, the judges decided that the dad had kept all the musical genes to himself.
Haggai Yedidya played the immigrant with plenty of heart and no talent. He wore an outfit with more American flags than a Fourth of July parade, but not much else to offer. He seemed earnest enough, but if any candidate turns out to be one of those stand-up comics who shows up to auditions as part of some random theater exercise, this was the guy.
Finally, there was Princess Brewer, who was this show’s contestant totally convinced that she was the next big thing, minus the talent. Describing herself as a blunt, sassy perfectionist, she sounded good in the interview, but didn’t give herself a chance with her voice. She wasn’t one of the worst this season, as Simon unkindly told her, but she wasn’t close to being good enough to move on.
Few make it throughIf there was a star of the day, it was Mecca Madison, a belly-dancer with a nice voice and quiet confidence. Simon and Randy agreed that she had a better recording voice than a live voice, and Madison looked like she was trying to figure out if that was good news or bad, but either way it got her through to Hollywood.
Heather Ward came a long way from Salisbury, Maryland, to audition in Vegas, but the prison worker was rewarded with a ticket to the West Coast. Her audition was memorable for two moments; the fact that Paula was the dissenting vote and Simon’s fascination with handcuffs.
“I’m usually the one who does the handcuffs,” Simon said, after hearing Ward say that she’d brought her set along. Apparently he felt free to ignore Paula’s earlier plea that “Idol” was a family show.
Finally, there was gray-haired Taylor Hicks, who made it to Hollywood despite the fact that he looked like somebody’s father who wandered onto the set and was given a number by mistake.
Regardless of his appearance, Hicks had one of the best voices of the night and reminded Randy of Joe Cocker and Ray Charles, both legendary singers but neither of whom would have been favorites on “Idol.” Despite Simon’s dissent, Paula and Randy pushed Hicks onto Hollywood.
And that was just about it. Only 11 of the hopefuls got their golden tickets to Hollywood, proving the adage that what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.
Craig Berman lives in Washington, D.C. and is a regular contributor to MSNBC.com.