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“The Illusionists: Live From Broadway” Review

Image result for the illusionists live from broadway

I don’t normally review things on this blog other than Got Talent episodes, but this week I was fortunate enough to see a show that has a lot of tie-ins with the franchise. The Illusionists is a series of live shows who’s casts are each made up of several performers who specialize in various areas of magic. There are a few tours currently running and starting up in the future, including one travelling North America from January to June. For now there are two productions running during the month of December (one in Toronto, Ontario and the other in Wilmington, Delaware and Washington, DC) both of which feature performers who will become part of said North American tour as well as some other special guests.

The Illusionists portrays its performers as the Justice League or Avengers of magic. At the beginning and end of the show (as well as in promotional material) they all stand together onstage in a way that is very reminiscent of what you might see on your typical comic book movie poster. The superhero vibe is furthered by the fact that every performer in an Illusionists production is given a nickname that describes their “powers”. This year’s Toronto production features “The Trickster” (Jeff Hobson) “The Daredevil” (Jonathan Goodwin) “The Manipulator” (An Ha Lim) “The Unusualist” (Raymond Crowe) “The Eccentric” (Charlie Frye) “The Deductionist” (Colin Cloud) and “The Grand Illusionist” (Darcy Oake).

The cast of each Illusionists production is expertly crafted to ensure a variety of talents are represented. As the show’s emcee of sorts, Hobson got a good chunk of the stage time, much of which was used to interact (and mess around) with the audience. To be fair, his shtick did get a little cheesy at times – which I’m sure will be a delight for some people and maybe not to others – but the audience interaction added another dynamic to the act (at the performance I saw, this was most notable during a moment in which a young boy refused to give him any easy answers). An Ha Lim had the least amount of time on stage, but still made a strong impact with his award-winning card-conjuring magic. And as the only Canadian in the cast, Oake is a sort of homeland hero in the Toronto production, sharing the story of what sparked his passion for magic and amazing the audience with his signature dove trick (as seen on Britain’s Got Talent).

Fresh off his run in the most recent season of America’s Got Talent, Colin Cloud will inevitably be one of the bigger draws of this year’s tour. As someone who’s covered all of his performances on the program as well as other similar acts in the past, I’ve come to learn a lot about mentalism – his genre of choice – and that it can be controversial in more ways than one. However, as I said all summer, it’s not just the trick itself that makes a magic performance, but the presentation of it. Seeing Cloud command the stage live with his own personal brand of illusion, class, and wit was truly a treat to behold. (Being selected as one of the lucky participants in his second-act segment was just the icing on the cake. :P)

The Illusionists also goes beyond the typical conjuring, vanishing, and mind-reading typically seen in magic shows. Humorous vaudevillian segments from Charlie and Sherry Frye transports patrons back to a time where stage magic was simpler, but no less fun to watch. In addition to performing what was probably the most whimsical trick of all in the first act, Raymond Crowe’s signature shadow puppetry act (as seen on Australia’s Got Talent) was a clear crowd favorite. Doing Got Talent coverage has made me realize how difficult pleasing an audience with a danger act can be, but Daredevil Jonathan Goodwin somehow manages to have just the right stage presence to grab the audience while still maintaining a certain ominous vibe to keep the tension and suspense from start to finish during each of his segments. The audience is always acutely aware of the dangerous and painful aspects of his stunts, but it never quite gets to the point where it becomes unwatchable (except maybe for the most squeamish patrons).

Being a magic show, plenty of audience participation is inevitably incorporated into The Illusionists. (At the performance I saw, multiple illusionists unknowingly selected the same man to be involved in the show, which soon became a running joke.) If you’re not comfortable being pulled into the action, I highly suggest avoiding the front rows and any orchestra-level aisle seats when buying tickets for the show. On the flip side, without spoiling anything I am happy to report that audience members who aren’t sitting close to the stage will still have the opportunity to be part of the performance (without being unwillingly dragged onstage!).

The Illusionists will be presented across North America between December 2017 and June 2018. (For those wondering, the tour beyond the holiday season stops will feature Toronto cast members An Ha Lim, Colin Cloud, Jonathan Goodwin, and Jeff Hobson, as well as Wilmington/Washington performer Kevin James, aka “The Inventor”.)  Tickets for the full list of dates can be found on the show’s website.

December 15, 2017 I Written By

I’m obssessed with the entertainment industry, especially offbeat and nerdy things as well as those that involve live performance. The only thing I love more than geeking out over the things that entertain me is sharing in my excitement with others who share the same passions. America may have talent, but Canada has an up-and-coming blogger who is ready to take the internet by storm!

New Music From Some AGT Favorites! – Alumni Update

There is also a “behind the scenes” video up on her YouTube Channel.AGT Alumni have released some cool music over the past few days! Grace VanderWaal‘s album Just The Beginning came out a few weeks ago, but she dropped a new video for the song “So Much More Than This” on Monday. I love the message of the song; it’s something I can personally stand to keep in mind a bit more, which goes to show Grace is wise beyond her years. The video is lighthearted and uplifting, which definitely compliments the song.

Getting into the holiday spirit, Season 12 finalist Laura Bretan released her own version of “Silent Night” today. The track will be released on all streaming platforms this Friday, December 8, but for now it is exclusively available for listen via YouTube.

Lindsey Stirling released another music video complimentary to her Warmer in the Winter Christmas album last week, this time for “Carol of the Bells”. There is also a “behind the scenes” video up on her YouTube Channel.

To end today’s post off, I’d like to let everyone know I’m in the midst of a personal project for the month I’m calling “Blogmas” which entails me putting up one blog post every day until Christmas. The catch is since I write for several blogs and would also like to include some more random and personal entries (especially seeing how dead the reality TV world is this time of year) not all installments are going up on the same site so I have a masterpost I’m updating with links to each new entry as I post them (in fact, this very post is today’s installment!). It’d be really cool if I could get some people from each of my blogs’s respective readerships to go check it out and see what else I do, but if not I’ll be back here on Pure AGT with at least two more posts by the end of the month, and hopefully we’ll get some new information on the new Got Talent seasons soon!

December 6, 2017 I Written By

I’m obssessed with the entertainment industry, especially offbeat and nerdy things as well as those that involve live performance. The only thing I love more than geeking out over the things that entertain me is sharing in my excitement with others who share the same passions. America may have talent, but Canada has an up-and-coming blogger who is ready to take the internet by storm!

See Past (and Future?) AGT Favorites Live On Stage! – Alumni Update

I guess this is kind of a “part 2” to yesterday’s alumni news roundup; that one was mostly about television appearances, while this one has news on a few upcoming live performances, including something that was just announced this morning!

Starting off with the breaking news, Darci Lynne Farmer has just announced a winter tour! Five dates have been announced for weekends in January and February, with more to come soon. The pre-sale for tickets beings tomorrow (November 29) at 10am local time. Details and the pre-sale code can be found here.

Sal Vaentinetti and and Christian Guardino have a one-night only Golden Buzzer Buddies concert coming up on December 22 in Westbury, NY. From what I gather it’ll mostly be Christmas music with some comedy from guest act Shuli, so if you’re in the area and looking for a holiday treat this might be the show for you!

I’m kind of late on this last show because it’s already started, but Sara & Hero are the headliners of a show in Reno from now until the end of the year. It’s called The Unbelievables: A Christmas Extravaganza and features a bunch of variety acts in the same vein of The Illusionists with various magicians (in fact, it’s produced by the same team as both that show and Circus 1903). You can purchase tickets here.

I also noticed that another installment of The Unbelievables is set to take Melbourne in January, and this one will not only feature several past AGT contestants, but also someone we may be seeing on the show in the near future….(more on that to come!)

November 28, 2017 I Written By

I’m obssessed with the entertainment industry, especially offbeat and nerdy things as well as those that involve live performance. The only thing I love more than geeking out over the things that entertain me is sharing in my excitement with others who share the same passions. America may have talent, but Canada has an up-and-coming blogger who is ready to take the internet by storm!

The Holiday Season has Begun! – AGT Alumni Update

We’re at that point in the America’s Got Talent offseason where we’re past the excitement and hype of the previous season, but are still waiting for buzz on the upcoming competition. Auditions for the upcoming season are going on, but there hasn’t been much news to come out of them yet. I have heard about a couple of possible recruits, but I’m waiting until a few more names get thrown out there before a do a whole post on them.

Britain’s Got Talent is in a similar “lull” phase right now, but I’m sure news on that show will pick up soon since it’s return is closer than that of AGT. In the meantime, we still have the Royal Variety Performance (that actually almost got cancelled but thankfully the show went on) to look forward to. The show was filmed last week and will be televised in December/January depending on the country (as per tradition, it’ll air here in Canada at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s, but I’ll make sure to watch and review the show on here well beforehand while it’s still relevant. :P).

I was really hoping to see another AGT Christmas special this year, but there are still plenty of opportunities to see franchise favorites grace our television screens this holiday season!

Angelica Hale performed in last week’s Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, singing “Girl on Fire” on the Sprout float. Check it out!

You can see reigning champ Darci Lynne Farmer in the A Very Pentatonix Chrismas special airing tonight (November 27) on NBC at 10/9c. Here’s a little preview of what’s in store:

|Finally, Season 5’s Lindsey Stirling‘s Warmer in the Winter tour is still going on for the next few weeks, but if you aren’t able to catch a show in person, tomorrow night’s performance (November 28) will be streamed live on Twitter at 10/9c. I’d also like to congratulate Lindsey on a fantastic run on ABC’s Dancing With the Stars. The season ended last week and she finished as Runner-Up. On the last night they showed clips of the contestant’s highs and lows in life, and Lindsey’s featured the infamous AGT clip of Piers and Sharon telling her she’d never make it as a violinist.  I’ve included that video below as well as a compilation of the dances she performed on the show (she may have even bust out the violin at some point!). 😛

November 27, 2017 I Written By

I’m obssessed with the entertainment industry, especially offbeat and nerdy things as well as those that involve live performance. The only thing I love more than geeking out over the things that entertain me is sharing in my excitement with others who share the same passions. America may have talent, but Canada has an up-and-coming blogger who is ready to take the internet by storm!

A Vegas Venue, a Seattle Church, and the Royal Variety Performance – AGT Alumni Update

We may be trucking through the off-season, but there’s been lots of news in AGT Land so far this month!

First and foremost, America’s Got Talent Live in Las Vegas was a huge success! There were some great throwbacks to the summer show as well as some new material from Darci Lynne Farmer, Angelica Hale, Preacher Lawson, and Light Balance, including a few collaborative performances! (Photo credit to Angelica Hale on Instagram.)

Her run is Vegas may be over (for now!) but Darci Lynne isn’t slowing down – she recently announced a series of shows in her hometown of Oklahoma City. Darci Lynne: Homecoming will be onstage at The Criterion on December 16-17 2017, and tickets are selling fast!

Seattle-area AGT fans have an upcoming treat of their own. Gold Creek Community Church’s annual Gold Creek Christmas show has a special twist this year: several Season 12 contestants will be performing, including singers Evie Clair, Kechi, and Christian Guardino, dancer Merrick Hanna, and dog act Patrick & Ginger! There are three performances scheduled over December 15-16, and tickets can be purchased here.

In other Season 12 alumni news, last week Colin Cloud announced his involvement in this year’s Royal Variety Performance. If you’re unfamiliar with the tradition check out the link, but the show is an annual tradition in Britain and is known for featuring a, well, variety of different performers from comedians to sideshow acts to West End stage show casts. (So basically everything we hope to see in the AGT live shows instead of an abundance of karaoke-style pop singers.) And just to give you an idea how prestigious the RVP is, a performance slot is the grand prize for AGT‘s own sister program Britain’s Got Talent. This year’s winner and representative is musician Tokio Myers, and in addition to all of the BGT champs some other alumni from AGT have participated in previous year’s performances.

The 2017 RVP is set to tape later this month and will be televised in Britain and other Commonwealth nations in December and January, but those living in America and other countries will more than likely be able to catch clips of the performances when they are inevitably uploaded to YouTube. And since I’m expanding this blog to cover BGT in the spring (and need some filler content between now and then :P) I’m planning to review the show here on Pure AGT next month! (Photo credit to Colin Cloud on Instagram.)

Finally, I’ve mostly refrained from posting about this since one of our sister sites pretty much has it covered, but AGT Season 5 alumnus Lindsey Stirling not only recently released a brand new Chirstmas album entitled Warmer in the Winter, she was officially announced as a Dancing With the Stars finalist earlier this week! The two-night Finale airs on ABC Monday November 20 at 8/7c and Tuesday November 21 at I believe 9/8c. (And I believe Lindsey also has a new music video coming out on her YouTube channel very soon!) You can check out one of her dances from this past episode below, and I’ll see you again soon with more AGT updates.

November 16, 2017 I Written By

I’m obssessed with the entertainment industry, especially offbeat and nerdy things as well as those that involve live performance. The only thing I love more than geeking out over the things that entertain me is sharing in my excitement with others who share the same passions. America may have talent, but Canada has an up-and-coming blogger who is ready to take the internet by storm!

AGT Alumni Updates and Should You Read Mandy Harvey’s “Sensing the Rhythm”?

Big week for AGT alumni! This coming Friday, November 3, Season 11 Champion Grace VanderWaal‘s debut album, Just the Beginning, will be released, as well as her new accessory line with Charming Charlie. (Photo from Just Jared Jr.)

grace vdw charming charlie line 02

Amercia’s Got Talent: Live!” featuring Season 12 fan favorites Darci Lynne Farmer, Angelica Hale, Light Balance, and Preacher Lawson is happening in Las Vegas this weekend. The two initially planned performances sold out so quickly they added two or three more, and then those went fast as well, so they should get a good turnout. Unfortunately, I won’t be attending (though I did get to see Season 11’s Tape Face do his thing up here in Canada this past Saturday) but I’ll be sure to update with a roundup of social media, pictures, and any other fun stuff from the event next week! (Photo from Darci’s Twitter).

Lastly, I’ve been meaning to cover Mandy Harvey’s book Sensing the Rhythm, which was released about a month ago and is currently available in bookstores and online.

Sensing the Rhythm mostly covers Mandy’s life from around the time she lost her hearing to the present as of when the book was being written (a little less than a year ago from when I’m posting this in October 2017) though there are a few stories from her high school days and before peppered in. The book has an easy-to-follow, feel-good format with each chapter starting with an anecdote from Mandy’s life, followed by the lesson(s) she learned from the experience and advice to readers who may be facing similar challenges and does a great job at translating these takeaways to other situations people may be dealing with.  So while the stories mostly focus on her hearing loss and music career, the book overall is about overcoming adversity, and that’s a challenge virtually everyone in the world faces at one point or another.

Since the book was finished before her season of AGT began, there isn’t any juicy behind-the-scenes dirt on her experience competing on the show. However, we do get some interesting and insightful background information on her family and love life (SPOILERS: she’s married, so sorry to crush the dreams of all the people who ship her with certain other AGT contestants :P). These sections of the book are the most personal and raw of all; I was surprised she even opted to discuss some of the things she did, though I think they probably helped paint a more authentic picture of Mandy as a person, and I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who enjoyed Mandy on AGT or are just curious to know more about how she was able to continue composing and performing music after losing her hearing.

That’s about it for now. I’ll be back next week with some AGT Vegas show coverage, so see you then! 😀

October 30, 2017 I Written By

I’m obssessed with the entertainment industry, especially offbeat and nerdy things as well as those that involve live performance. The only thing I love more than geeking out over the things that entertain me is sharing in my excitement with others who share the same passions. America may have talent, but Canada has an up-and-coming blogger who is ready to take the internet by storm!

The 10 Best Performances of America’s Got Talent Season 12

Before I start this, I wanted to give a quick shout-out to the Las Vegas Victims’ Fund GoFundMe campaign. Any massacre is horrific of course but especially with the connection AGT has with the city I thought it’d be good to share.

I’ve thought a lot about what to do with this blog during the off-season. I know I don’t want it to go completely dormant like last year, so I’m going to try to post at least twice per month. One post will be a roundup of any notable alumni updates and the other will vary a bit. For this month I recently grabbed a copy of Mandy Harvey’s book “Sensing the Rhythm” which was released last week, so I’ll get a review of that up once I’ve finished reading it!

For now, let’s get to the top 10 list! Note that I didn’t allow myself to include multiple performances from the same act so I wouldn’t run out of things to say. 😛

10. Preacher Lawson Proves Himself to be a “Driving” Force in the Competition (Auditions)

While I’ve made it clear I didn’t agree with some of the representation of certain act genres we had in the Season 12 live shows, I think Preacher Lawson was definitely the best comedian of all those we saw by miles, so if we could only have one make it through, I’m glad it was him. Most of his performances were on a similar level for me – all around solid, with a couple laugh-out-loud jokes and good personality to make the lesser material palatable. After re-watching each of them, I still think his best performance was his very first audition.

He started by easing into the jokes by answering each question from the judges with a hint of humor, which made a nice segue into the set itself. As the season went on, Preacher slowly began incorporating more and more of his “over-the-top” bits into his performances, culminating in one long joke in the Finals that lasted about 30 seconds (you know the one :P). But here, we don’t get it until late in the act, giving us time to warm up to his style of humor before taking it to the next level with the grandma impression.

This performance was so good that even though it was one of the very first acts shown in the season premiere, it stuck out in my mind through the following weeks of auditions, and by the time we got to Preacher’s next set in the third episode of the Judge Cuts round, I was on the edge of my seat in anticipation to see what he would bring us next.

9. Billy & Emily England Go for a Spin, Game of Thrones-style (Semi-Finals)

Like most danger performers who’ve gone on AGT, Billy & Emily England were certainly one of the more controversial acts of Season 12. Some people loved them, others feared them, and a few thought their act was more suited to a “redneck family reunion” than a primetime TV talent show (Facebook’s words, not mine).

I was concerned early on that the “wow” factor of the extreme roller-skating would wear off a little too quickly, but in a surprise result (at least to me) they avoided Quarter-Finals Dunkin’ Save territory and spun on straight to the Semis. By the time their second live show rolled around, not only had there been many a comment stating they needed to “step it up” but also many questioning their relationship as siblings. I don’t know if the concept for their Semi-Finals performance was an intentional nod to the speculation of incest, but either way, the Game of Thrones-esque set-up added an extra sense of intensity to the act.

Of course, the theme wasn’t the only thing that made this performance epic; Billy and Emily started out somewhat slow, but that helped them build tension and suspense as they kept adding to the danger with each passing trick. They even maintained strong showmanship whenever they had to pause the actual spinning to maintain their balance. It all culminated in one final daring move we hadn’t seen from them in any of their previous AGT showings; Billy tossing Emily off the platform, ending as the victor of the storyline.

8. Sara & Hero are “Walking on Sunshine” at the Beach (Semi-Finals)

Sara & Hero had kind of a rough start to the season, narrowly making it to the Judge Cuts round. But from there, they charmed the judges and viewers enough to make it all the way the 5th place without ever being on the Dunkin’ Save bubble! I really love Sara’s commitment to training dogs using positive reinforcement, and she managed to raise the bar with pretty much every AGT performance.

The Semi-Finals act is the one that I think worked the best. The beach theme was very well-suited to the “girl and her dogs” storyline and it had the biggest variety of tricks we hadn’t seen from them yet. The beginning with the CPR was arguably the best part since it was the only real “story” section of the performance, but the level of the tricks that followed made up for it. (The volleyball stuff was particularly impressive.) None of them went on for too long, and most of the transitions were smooth enough for Hero and Loki to keep up nicely. There were a couple of mistakes but none of the prevented the routine from progressing as it should (I really liked how Sara just kind of rolled with everything). I would have to say this was probably the most uplifting performance of the season, and it was no surprise for them to make the Finals as a result!

7. Colin Cloud Goes Undercover (Semi-Finals)

I feel like illusion-based acts are always at least a little controversial (“it’s not REAL magic”) but mentalism tends to stir up particularly heated debates. A lot of people are convinced there are plants in the audience or the judges are in on the trick (I highly doubt the latter is true, but I know of an instance or two when the host knew what was up). I know how quite a few of the tricks we’ve seen from this genre over the years are done, and there are a variety of different methods the performers have used. I know a lot of people like to make fun of Colin’s label as the “Real-Life Sherlock Holmes” but since the season ended a couple weeks ago I’ve looked up some videos of him online and the claims of forensic studies seem pretty legit and tied to a lot of his tricks. Granted, most of what he did beyond the Judge Cuts round incorporated less of that stuff, but it still helped me understand/appreciate some of his performances (ie. the Quarter-Finals one) more.

I actually almost selected Colin’s Judge Cuts act for his entry on the list, but I decided that while I did like the tricks in that one better, I think his Semi-Finals showing was stronger as an overall performance. Sometimes it’s not only what we’re seeing, but how it’s presented to us. While watching this on the night it aired I was disappointed at first; we’d seen a very similar illusion performed by Tom London earlier in the season, and that hadn’t boded well for his status in the competition. I was so confused. Why would a mentalist who’d shown he could perform all kinds of cool tricks chose to go down the route of doing one that didn’t even involve those skills? (Well, aside from the first bit with Howie’s phone unlock code.)

Just as I was about ready to give up on Colin, the flashback video started. While it didn’t change the essence of the trick, it added a whole new layer to the performance. The amount of effort put behind all those “clues” (especially in the burger place) was very impressive, and the thing with the board at the end was pretty funny (I’d been confused by the seemingly arbitrary “number of possibilities” since the video calling for tweet submissions was posted online a week prior). Suddenly, a disappointingly lackluster performance became one of my favorites of the entire season. Just goes to show that the delivery and presentation of an act can be equally as impactful as the material itself.

6. Merrick Hanna Dances to “I Built a Friend” (Auditions)

Real talk: the Season 12 premiere was probably one of the best AGT audition round episodes I’ve ever seen. Most of the really memorable auditions were shown in those two hours, and they made for a very strong start to the season. One of the acts in this episode that captivated me the most was Merrick Hanna.

I’d seen lots of animation dancing in the past, but rarely any that actually told a story. Merrick chose a great song to use; it wasn’t mainstream (so everyone would associate it with him) and was about a kind an his robot so the dancing really connected to the music well. His acting was also amazing and really sold the performance. In later rounds, we didn’t get this kind of rawness from Merrick (though he was still very good) but I’m glad we at least got to see it once on AGT.

5. Light Balance Stars a Party in the Dolby (Finals)

As the only Golden Buzzer act that didn’t involve singing, I think a lot of the dance and variety fans were really pulling for Light Balance to go far in the competition…and they did! They actually managed to beat all but two of the singing Golden Buzzers, not to mention every other act of the season!

We’ve seen several light-up dance crews over the years, but what I think made Light Balance special was their polished-ness and memorable characters, most noticeably the Abe Lincoln-esque fellow and the Wolfman. They frequently appeared in their performances and the Wolfman in particular gave way to some neat tricks (like the jail cell escape in this act).

The light-up dance acts can get old after awhile, but the trick is to incorporate different levels of movement, character, and tricks to them to keep things from getting stale. That’s exactly what Light Balance gave us this season, and it all culminated in this full-out dance party of a performance.

4. Diavolo Takes Us on a Journey Through Time and Space (Semi-Finals)

Diavolo is a great example of an act utilizing set pieces well without letting them take over the whole show. Their scenery is carefully selected to showcase what the dancers can do, and what I loved about this performance in particular was the variety of things they incorporated into it. They used several set pieces – each in a different way – and the transitions between each segment were seamless which made the whole act flow very naturally. I’m not entirely sure what the “story” of this performance was supposed to be, but I have a feeling it may have been purposefully vague in order to try to get the audience’s minds working to try to come up with their own unique interpretations.

I really don’t know what else to say about this. How does one even describe Diavolo? “Dance troupe” certainly doesn’t cover it, and neither does “acrobatics group”. I guess the best way to explain Diavolo in a nutshell would simply be “art”.

3. Bello Nock Conquerors the “Wheel of Death” (Quarter-Finals)

Bello Nock may be a seasoned professional at daredevil performances (let’s be real, a lot of the variety acts on AGT are) but that didn’t change the fear we all faced when he took a spin on the “Wheel of Death” for us in the Quarter-Finals.

When Sophie – who was at the live shows that week – first told me what Bello’s act was, I was kind of disappointed. It just didn’t seem very exciting. How could spinning on a giant wheel keep people entertained for three minutes? It just seemed like the awe factor would disappear very quickly. Luckily, Bello managed to create enough intrigue and suspense to keep us on our toes for the entire performance. He started by doing some fun tricks inside the wheel, then suddenly made things much more dramatic by climbing onto the outside of it and slowed things down, making it seem like he might fall off.

The tone change came at just the right time; as soon as the first segment was starting to wear out its welcome, a sudden shift in stakes brought the excitement back. Bello wasn’t just entertaining the audience anymore, but making them root for him. He built the tension at just the right pace and ended with a nail-biting but ultimately satisfying conclusion.

I really thought this performance played into the “fan-favorite Wildcard” storyline quite nicely, and was baffled it sent him packing. (I know some viewers have a disdain for danger acts, but remember, this was the same week that resulted in Billy & Emily making the top 5, so I’m still confused about Bello’s elimination.)

2. Mandy Harvey Semi-Finals: “Release Me” (Semi-Finals)

At first, Mandy’s AGT journey seemed oddly familiar…she came out with a ukulele at the end of the second episode, performed an original song, and received a Golden Buzzer. It felt like she was the second coming of Grace VanderWaal, only with a tragic backstory tacked on for good measure, which – fair or not – made me feel more weary than excited.

Her next showing in the Quarter-Finals was quite nice, but it was her Semi-Finals performance that really got me on board the Mandy train. Her first two songs were light, pretty, and overall pleasant, but in this performance, Mandy shed the sweetness (and the ukulele) and got raw. “Release Me” showed a much darker side of Mandy that we hadn’t yet seen, and there seemed to be so much weight behind every note she sang. Without the ukulele, her body language was much more expressive; the decision to sign the lyrics reminded us of her roadblock in life, but also was a way to use her body to express the sentiment behind the music, and her face was also much more expressive than we’d seen in her previous AGT showings.

Everything came together and made for a powerful performance that dramatically stood out from all the other solo singing acts in Season 12, and I really wish she’d saved this for the last week since her actual performance in the Finals felt like the wall that had been torn down in this one had been rebuilt to a degree.

1. Darci Lynne Farmer Helps Edna Doorknocker Serenade Simon (Semi-Finals)

Darci Lynne Farmer was one of the rare AGT acts that combined three very distinct talents, and I think her showing in the Semi-Finals was her best combination of her ventriloquism, comedy, and singing skills.

Right from when she opened the box, it was clear how dedicated Darci was to making Edna seem like a separate being from herself. The speaking voice was clearly distinct from her own, and when it came time for the song she not only had to nail the complexities of the vocal performance (which involved belting) but had to do it in the character’s voice, which she nailed.

Darci’s comedic chops were as strong as ever, not only in the delivery of the material (especially the hilarious meta AGT references) but also in her facial expressions, even when she was doing the ventriloquism. The best example of this was when she was walking over to Simon while singing. Her voice as Edna was passionate, but her own facial expression was clearly reluctant. It takes a lot of skill for someone to perform one way with their voice and the opposite way with their face, and she had it down pat.

I’ve seen a lot of criticism for Darci’s victory, most of it not actually having anything to do with her or the act itself, but for being “too obvious”. While I found it annoying that the champions of both Seasons 11 and 12 felt determined pretty early on and get wanting to be surprised, that’s more on the producers than the actual talent. I think Darci fully deserved her win, being one of those rare acts that can appeal to music fans and variety-lovers alike.

October 5, 2017 I Written By

I’m obssessed with the entertainment industry, especially offbeat and nerdy things as well as those that involve live performance. The only thing I love more than geeking out over the things that entertain me is sharing in my excitement with others who share the same passions. America may have talent, but Canada has an up-and-coming blogger who is ready to take the internet by storm!

AGT Season 12 Contestant Updates (including Darci Lynne’s Ellen appearance!)

Looks like Darci has been doing the press rounds this week. She has appeared on a few shows since her win on Wednesday, including yesterday’s episode of Ellen! Check it out below.

As longtime readers will know, I love that America’s Got Talent welcomes all kinds of performers and gives many of them a career boost. I’m a big fan of the TV dance world and the people who cover those shows are always encouraging fans to support the dancers in their other projects and live performances. Likewise, I’d like to start doing this for some of our AGT alumni on here. They’ve shared their talents with us, so I’m only too glad to support/promote them when I am able! Yesterday I shared some info about the upcoming AGT Planet Hollywood show in Las Vegas featuring Season 12 finalists Darci Lynne Farmer, Angelica Hale, Light Balance, and Preacher Lawson, but I’ve been looking to see where else some of the contestants will be performing next as well. Here’s what I’ve found so far:

I know we have a lot of Pure AGT readers who became fans of acrobatic dance group Diavolo over the summer, and I have some good new for you guys: they’re going on tour! They’ll be heading to nearly 20 US cities between now and March 2018. This is the 25th anniversary celebration for the dance company, so this show is sure to be an extra special one!

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Preacher Lawson may be part of the AGT Vegas show in November, but that’s far from the only place he’ll be performing this fall. He has a list of show dates on his website, which currently lists shows for Oklahoma, Alberta, Alabama, Washington, Arkansas, and New York before the end of the year.

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I know a lot of AGT fans were disappointed in the lack of magic acts this season, so I wanted to tell you guys a bit about a show called The Illusionists. Some of you may have heard of the show or even seen a performance before, but for those who are unaware it is the world’s biggest touring magic show, and has several versions going on at once around the globe. Each production has a handful of various performers – mostly magicians – each with a different skillset in the art of illusion and title to match it – ex. “The Grand Illusionist” or “The Daredevil” – making for a show featuring a wide variety of magic.

Several alums from various Got Talent programs have appeared in this show, like how last year saw Season 11 runners-up The Clairvoyants pop in for a stint in the Broadway production. Another AGT contestant who is no stranger to this show is Season 12 Semi-Finalist Colin Cloud (aka “The Deductionist”) who has toured with the show to several continents over the past couple of years and is set to appear in quite a few of the 2017-18 North American stops (and I believe South Africa as well). I was very disappointed to miss this show when it came to Toronto last year (which might have turned out to be a good thing for Pure AGT, since I’m pretty sure if I had seen Mr. Deductionist before he was on AGT this would have become a Colin Cloud stan blog for the season. :P) but I am delighted that it’s coming back this holiday season and if I am able to go I might just review it for you guys! 😉

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Finally, Season 12 fourth-place finisher Mandy Harvey has quite a bit of music available for purchase, as well as some upcoming tour dates across the US. Most of them are set for Winter-Spring 2018, but she does have a couple shows in California and Indiana this October.

Mandy has also written a book that can be pre-ordered here. It’s her autobiography which focuses on coming to terms with her loss of hearing while figuring out how to realize her musician dreams. I’m really excited to read about her journey when the book is released in just a few days on September 26.

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That’s all for now, but if I see any more noteworthy updates from AGT alumni I’ll be sure to inform you guys! And don’t worry, I haven’t forgotten about the top Season 12 performances countdown, I just really felt like it deserved its own post, so that’ll be coming up very soon! 🙂

September 23, 2017 I Written By

I’m obssessed with the entertainment industry, especially offbeat and nerdy things as well as those that involve live performance. The only thing I love more than geeking out over the things that entertain me is sharing in my excitement with others who share the same passions. America may have talent, but Canada has an up-and-coming blogger who is ready to take the internet by storm!

America’s Got Talent Season 12 Champion Crowned, Vegas Show Line-Up Announced, and an Interesting Observation…

A huge CONGRATULATIONS to the newly-crowned America’s Got Talent Season 12 champion, Darci Lynne Farmer! Check out the Access Hollywood interviews from last night and this morning below! (Love how Terry Fator pops in to congratulate Darci!)

Darci will be headlining this year’s AGT Live! On Stage show in Las Vegas this November 3-4. The pre-sale for tickets is happening now with the code TALENT. Darci will be joined in the show by Season 12 runner-up Angelica Hale, third place finisher Light Balance, and top 10 finalist Preacher Lawson.

Can’t make it to Vegas? Tomorrow I’ll be doing a roundup of other upcoming performances from some of the Season 12 contestants, in addition to a countdown of what I thought were the very best performances of the season. But for now, something has come to my attention I think might make for some interesting discussion. Right after the Season 11 finale last year, Sophie (who you may remember from the livestream we did together last week) posted the following theory on Reddit:

Now, ventriloquism – let alone singing ventriloquism – is not the most common talent. Yes, it’s the second-most common winner category on AGT, but we haven’t had nearly as many ventriloquists on the show as, say, singers or magicians. I think the rarity of it might be the reason people tend to latch onto the ventriloquist acts on AGT, since it’s one of those skills we don’t see many other places in mainstream entertainment. Still, Sophie correctly predicting such a niche act winning Season 12 (before auditions for the season even started) makes me wonder if this “10 year cycle” theory may prove to be true. Let’s look at the winners from Seasons 3-10 to see what might be in store for the next eight years! (And yes, at this rate I do think the show has a good chance of sticking around for that long. Ratings were UP this season; that almost never happens in television these days!)

Season 3: Neal E. Boyd (Pop Opera Singer)
Season 4: Kevin Skinner (Country Singer)
Season 5: Michael Grimm (Singer-Guitarist)
Season 6: Landau Eugene Murphy Jr. (Jazz Singer)
Season 7: Olate Dogs (Dog Act)
Season 8: Kenichi Ebina (Dancing Mime)
Season 9: Mat Franco (Magician)
Season 10: Paul Zerdin (Ventriloquist)

If the pattern continues, it looks like we’re in for a few more years of singers winning, which I’ve kind of been expecting anyway, since so many people are itching to sing for Simon and possibly get signed by SYCO. I think as long as he’s on the judging panel, there will continue to be a lot of singing acts who audition for AGT. At least it’s looking like they’ll come from different genres for the most part. 😛

After that we’d have a dog/animal act win, which would also make sense; Sara & Hero were one of the biggest underdog acts (hehe) going into the live shows this season and they made it all the way to 5th place. And then we’d have a really unique and “out there” winner, followed by another magic act (I seriously can’t believe we’ve only had one win the show so far) and then a fourth ventriloquist champ (I guess by that time the cries of “ventriloquists always win!” will have died down).

Of course, this is all speculation, but it’s kind of an eerie coincidence Season 12 played out just like Sophie said it would! What sort of acts do you think we’ll be getting on AGT in the coming years, and which types do you think the audience might get behind to win?

September 21, 2017 I Written By

I’m obssessed with the entertainment industry, especially offbeat and nerdy things as well as those that involve live performance. The only thing I love more than geeking out over the things that entertain me is sharing in my excitement with others who share the same passions. America may have talent, but Canada has an up-and-coming blogger who is ready to take the internet by storm!

Pure America’s Got Talent Season 12 Live Show #6 ( THE FINALS!!!): Power Rankings

For this special Finale edition of the Power Rankings, I’m going to go backwards, beginning with the act I think is LEAST likely to win, and going up (down?) from there.

10. Sara & Hero: Going into last night’s show I knew there was no way they’d win, but they had an outside shot at cracking top 5 as long as they continued their upward trajectory. Alas, that didn’t happen, as there were a lot of mistakes and recycled tricks (that jumping bit at the end was amazing though, and I did like the inclusion of Loki and Marvel). All in all, this performance was pretty basic compared to what we’ve seen them do in previous live shows. And personal preference, but with the name “The Super Collies”, I was kind of disappointed we never got a superhero-themed act from them.

9. Kechi: This was one of the segments that followed my “advice” (only not really because I wrote it long after they’d had everything prepared for the segment) and involved family of the people lost in the plane crash. The way the package was set up felt very strange, as if Kechi was the “Chosen One” to fulfill some sort of prophecy. I wish we could have just seen her as a human being who went through something instead of some spiritual entity. As for her song, I barely remember it, but considering there seems to be a clear top 4 and uncertainty about the other acts she – and everyone else above her – could very well wind up in 5th place.

8. Chase Goehring: More than most of the other Finalists, I think Chase truly put in the effort to give the audience what they were looking for and showed his growth as an artist last night. He finally sang about something other than how he’s a “nice guy” and girls should go out with him, and while the lyrics were still pretty generic I got the sense they were at least genuine. He also took the rapping to a whole new level! It seems pretty unlikely he’ll make the top 5 with his running order spot and having been on the bubble last round, but it’s nice to see someone improve their craft over the season.

7. Diavolo: If I had my choice of who would get that last spot in the top 5, it would definitely be Diavolo. This – like all their performances – was a true masterpiece. I like how they mixed some familiar and new elements to create a  tribute of sorts to their time on the AGT. If anyone from Season 12 deserves a Vegas show, it’s certainly them. However, this show isn’t really about finding a “Vegas” act anymore, and while I’m seeing more support for them than I did last week, I’m still not sure it’s going to be enough to get them to the top 5.

6. Evie Clair: I really have to hand it to AGT – they may be messy at times, but when it comes to handling serous issues like the one they were handed last night, they come through. (I was shocked they didn’t directly mention her father’s passing until the judge comments, but I think that was probably the best way to handle things so she could perform at her best. The package was tasteful, thankfully, and the performance…well, it was still bland, but it was better than most of her other AGT performances. I know I said I was concerned she’d have an outside chance of winning tonight but those fears have been washed away, though I do think the sympathy voters still have a chance of helping her squeeze into the top 5.

5. Preacher Lawson: Preacher’s final performance was polarizing, and he knew it. It’s been a running joke on his social media that he knows he’s going to lose to Darci and has accepted it, so I think he just decided to pick one of his personal favorite routines and go all out with the zaniness for this last episode. Leading up to last night’s Finals, I was seriously thinking he’d be in the top 5, but now I’m kind of up in the air about it. Like I’ve been saying, it seems the top 4 are so far ahead of everyone else in support that trying to guess who the last spot in the top 5 is going to is a bit of a crapshoot. In the end, I put Preacher here because I think he has the most passionate supporters out of the likely bottom 6.

4. Mandy Harvey: I was thinking Angelica would be the Brian Justin Crum of the seaon and place lower than generally anticipated, but I fear Mandy may end up in this position since last night was pretty underwhelming compared to her amazing Semi-Finals showing. This one just felt like a re-tread of her Quarter-Finals performance, both content-wise and aesthetically. I think if she had done this one last week and “Release Me” for the Finale she might have been one of the last two standing, but this performance may have knocked her down a few pegs, especially being sandwiched between two of the most impressive acts of the night.

3. Light Balance: This was probably the only act that gave us their best performance of the season last night, and I think peaking at the right time is going to help them. Getting the Finale week pimp spot – which I was sure was going to Darci with a small outside chance of Evie/Mandy – leads me to believe they’re getting a lot of audience support; before last night I was thinking they’d get 5th place at best and now I’m anticipating a top 3 finish for them. And while I know a lot of people who read this blog want Light Balance to win, keep in mind that a group act whose Golden Buzzer moment got glossed over and whose Quarter-Finals performance almost didn’t happen placing this high is a huge accomplishment.

2. Angelica Hale: Her performance of “Symphony” was a step up from last week, but still not nearly as strong as “Clarity” from the first live show. But I know a lot of people LOVED it and she’s been a frontrunner all season so I still think she’s likely to be one of the top finishers tonight. I think all the seasons with 10-act Finales had the show-opener finish in the top 5 without winning, and I’d be surprised if Angelica didn’t continue that tradition, but I’m not entirely sure where she’ll end up. The runner-up spot seems to be the most logical place to put her, since she’s probably the most likely to win if Darci doesn’t take it, but as I said before, I’ve started getting some Brian Justin Crum vibes from her in the recent weeks, so she could finish a little lower.

1. Darci Lynne Farmer: After last season I thought there was no way we would have a front-runner as obvious as Grace VanderWaal ever again, but here we are at the end of the very next season and Darci’s victory is arguably somehow even more inevitable. I think that might be because she’s the “perfect storm” of an act most viewers can agree on; she’s a young performer with a great voice which gives The Voice viewers something to tide them over until the new season starts up, but her act also incorporates puppetry and strong elements of comedy to appeal to the variety-loving crowd who still tune in to AGT to see Vegas-style acts do their thing. She also got a Golden Buzzer, which was obviously a major factor in her hype and popularity. Darci may not have one of those emotional backstories AGT has become notorious for, but when you think about it, even though many people with those stories have gotten far in the competition, the majority of the winners don’t have one. At the end of the day, talent (usually) tops all else, and I’m sure this will be proven once again when Darci is announced as the Season 12 champion tonight.

September 20, 2017 I Written By

I’m obssessed with the entertainment industry, especially offbeat and nerdy things as well as those that involve live performance. The only thing I love more than geeking out over the things that entertain me is sharing in my excitement with others who share the same passions. America may have talent, but Canada has an up-and-coming blogger who is ready to take the internet by storm!