American Idol: Orlando Auditions

Another night, another round of morbid auditions. Welcome to Orlando and, yes, it was a Mickey Mouse operation from the get-go. The producers tonight tried to hook us with a fiasco, a flamboyant fella named Theo who wore a cape and had glued several nickels around his right eye and sang Pat Benatar, who has been mercilessly butchered in this young season. It’s only four shows into the new Idol, and the formula is already pretty nauseating with the farcical auditions toggling with semi-talented dreamers who have a heart-wrenching story at home.

Put your hands together for Broadway darling Kristin Chenoweth of Wicked fame. The story tonight was that Kara and Kristin were BFFs, throwing a sorority girl party at the judges table, hanging all over each other and laughing constantly. Not to get all Captain Kirk on you, but I liked Kristin better with green skin. She was barely present tonight, by the way, disappearing midway through the show without a trace. When she did speak to the contestants, her voice suggested that she should have played one of the munchkins in Wicked rather than the witch.

The Disney tie-in worked if only by working in “When You Wish Upon a Star”, naturally, which served as a backdrop for images of the heartbroken, the indignant, and the jubilant alike. It was as close as the show came tonight to a production gimmick, after the silent-movie homage last week. Then again, we got to see someone get arrested.

But first, what are some names to remember? Well, Seth Rollins, for one, an XL-sized married father of an autistic son; at 28, he’s on the cusp of ineligibility, which has tended to work in participants’ favors in seasons past. Hey, Soul Patrol was already gray, for god’s sake. Seth sang “Someone to Watch Over Me”, a bit breathy, but with solid intonation and impressive range. A clean sweep with the judges. Another promising contestant was a Season 7 reject named Jermaine Purifoy, a George Gervin lookalike who sang a comfortable version of Charlie Chaplin’s “Smile”, thereby earning the long flight west.

The evening’s real underdog story came byway of an 18-year-old waitress, Shelby Dressel, who has a congenital condition that causes immobility on the right side of her face. Her version of Norah Jones’s “Turn Me On” was passable but nothing special; still the judges moved her through for the feel-good moment of the night. The final ringer, a contestant that Kara predicted would be in the final 12, is Matt Lawrence, a country boy built like a defensive tackle, who, when he was 15, robbed a bank with a bb gun and spent four years in the clink. (And you thought Skii Bo Ski had an interesting backstory.) Matt sang Ray Lamontagne’s “Trouble”, done as a sort of impression with his voice a bit up in his sinuses, but this guy’s got legs.

The rest was the mess that people count on at this stage of the show. How about Jay Stone, a beat boxer, who did a wicky-wicky one-mouth-DJ version of “Come Together”. Kara dug it, while Simon—the only judge with much integrity so far—summarily dismissed him. So with Kristin at happy hour, it came down to Randy, who dragged Jay’s fate into a real nailbiter. Randy has, for the second show straight, proven to be Kara’s dawg, who caved and agreed to admit Jay, even though the guy can’t sing.

Worse still was Cornelius Edwards who was in the middle of an atrocious rendition of “Proud Mary” when he did the splits—pants on the ground! As Cornelius then explained, “My pants done ripped”. For some inexplicable reason, they sent him to Hollywood for his troubles. Yeesh. The jury is still out on salt-and-pepper Jersey sisters Bernadette and Amanda Desimone. The stilletoed sisses auditioned together but sang separately, as Bernadette, the blonde, talked through “Hit the Road, Jack” and Amanda, the brunette and the more impressive of the two, sang Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance with Somebody”. They both made it through in a squeaker, raising the question—what’s up with the home-based hair salons this season?

Overall, 31 singers held golden tickets at the end of the second day—not many, but three times as many as Chicago. Oh, that arrest? A far-out dude named Jarrod Norrell had to give it up to God by bringing a stinging version of “Amazing Grace”. He sounded like a power tool, and he turned out to be one. When Randy kept it real (“Man, you can’t sing.”), Jarrod refused to leave and ended up cuffed and stuffed. Bad boys: Whatcha gonna do? (Psst: He was actually better than the dude who split his pants.)

Next: More auditions on Tuesday from the City of Angels.