American Idol rolled into Dallas, Texas last night. For fans of the show, you know that this is a very important city as its where the world first met season one winner Kelly Clarkson. On day one, actor and musical theater star Neil Patrick Harris joined Simon, Randy and Kara at the judges table. Neil followed in the footsteps of Tuesday night’s guest judge Katy Perry and did not hold back. But, while Katy went up against Kara -- Neil showed no restraint in standing up to Simon!
Okay, so getting to the auditions. Day one was colorful to say the least. First up was Julie Kevelighan who auditioned several seasons ago with an awful rendition of Lady Marmalade. She dressed to impress with bright eye shadow and a sparkly dress and a poster that declared this was her year. Sadly, her version of Black Velvet did nothing to change the judges mind nor did her desperate attempts to squeeze in Somewhere Over the Rainbow or Let’s Give Them Something To Talk About before they insisted she leave the room.
Thankfully the good natured and high spirited Lloyd Thomas was up next. He has a job working on the docks that he hates but two daughters that he love and nails it with Stevie Wonder’s Overjoyed. Kara says that he’s why she loves this show because they find people with great voices that work on the docks and wouldn’t be discovered otherwise. And Simon just can’t stop smiling – he genuinely loves him and sends Lloyd off to Hollywood.
We get treated to a montage featuring a lot of tears as the judges wade through the worst of the worst before meeting the unforgettable Erica Rhodes. She shows up in jeans and tells Ryan that she was a child actress best known for appearing on Barney and Friends. Yet, she enters the audition room determined to shatter her squeaky clean past with a leather romper, studded boots and a whip in hand. The judges are skeptical (Neil even comments on how Barney’s friends grow up to be dirty girls) but she nails it with En Vogue’s Free Your Mind. They love that she did her thing and owned it -- and send Erica right through to Hollywood.
The last audition of the day was Dave Pittman, a young man afflicted with Tourette’s syndrome. When he sings Bring It On Home there’s no trace of his twitches which Neil finds amazing. And once again, another inspiring singer makes it through to the Hollywood round.
Before you know it, we’re on the second day of auditions in Dallas and there’s a bit of pandemonium going on because Joe Jonas, one third of the mega group The Jonas Brothers, has joined the judges table. He’s pretty quiet -- though the outspokenness of Neil Patrick Harris and Katy Perry make them a pretty tough act to follow.
The first one to go through to Hollywood is the likeable and charismatic Todrick Hall. He actually was in The Color Purple with former Idol winner Fantasia on Broadway. He sings an original song all about being the next American Idol and Randy thinks he’s the best they’ve seen so far. Simon is skeptical but he lets him through anyway.
After a montage of other wannabe singers that make it through, we meet Maegan Wright. The divorce of her parents has brought her closer to her little brother and of course he’s there to cheer her on. She walks in wearing a very casual and not so flattering outfit -- shorts and a tank top -- but you forget about her looks after she beautifully sings To Make You Feel My Love. You would think that Simon would rip her apart because of her attire but he actually liked that she was just being herself and the judges all let her through to Hollywood.
Probably one of the worst (yet most memorable) of the day was the perky, over the top, dressed in head-to-pink Vanessa Johnston. She was spreading cheer in the waiting area but the judges were not happy with her crackly version of Etta James’ At Last. Simon sums it up best by explaining that her audition is what his “nightmares look and sound like.” She doesn’t mind, telling the cameras after the fact that “at least Simon is dreaming about me.”
Hell freezes over after her performance when Ryan takes the time to explain how draining the audition process is on the judges and gasp actually defends Simon’s crankiness!
But, it wouldn’t be American Idol without ending the night with a tearjerker. We meet Christian Spear who was diagnosed with leukemia on her fourth birthday, wasn’t supposed to live but beat the odds and has been in remission since she was eight years old. Now 16, she nailed it with All I Can Do Is Cry by Etta James. The judges love her and her supportive family (clad in t-shirts with Christian’s face) go nuts when she walks out with her ticket to Hollywood.
Another night of auditions done, another week closer to Hollywood (and Ellen Degeneres!) and we’re starting to get excited as the competition and the quality of contestants heats up!