Tuesday, January 29, 2008

American Idol Omaha Recap--High Stakes

Omaha rolls out the green crop circle for American Idol and delivers 10,000 contestants to stand in line around the Qwest Center waiting for their auditions. I grew up there and even I think this is a huge percentage of the population. Believe it or not, Omaha has a long line of folks who've made it big in Hollywood: Sandy Dennis, Marlon Brando, Henry Fonda, Nick Nolte, Gabrielle Union, Dick Cavett, Johnny Carson and more. Granted, I couldn't come up with any famous singers or musicians, but there must be some. Oh yeah, Mannheim Steamroller. Back to the auditions...

Lots of midwest farmer's daughters and wholesome guys are lined up. Paula's plane has been delayed, but the show must go on.

Chris Bernhisel is ready to explode in happiness now that he's actually auditioning. He's hoping for a "life alternating" change. [Note to east and west coasters: All midwesterners do not talk like this.] Chris brings gifts for the judges. A furry stuffed animal, a shirt, and some photos of Chris with Kelly Clarkson. Chris starts crying when Simon asks him why he's auditioning. Regardless of his answer, he shouldn't have auditioned. Chris sings Since You've Been Gone, which he tops off with a handstand. The handstand was the best part.

Jason Rich, from Stout, Iowa a town of 500, is up next. He's either really good or really bad because the producers go to the trouble of shooting him on a farm riding a tractor. Jason gets through a few bars of Keith Whitley--twice--and both times forgets the words. This is really uncomfortable for all of us. Simon and Randy give him more chances than they should, but he finally makes it through nearly a whole verse. Randy likes him, Simon likes him and even though he forgot the words and they don't see any star quality--they're sending him through to Hollywood.

Paula shows up.

Just an observation: This is a really blonde crowd.

Rachel Wicker, who's won six arm wrestling championships, belts out Lee Ann Womack's Don't Tell Me to Stop Loving You. She looks a little like Julia Roberts with short, blonde hair. Randy asks why everyone who sings country does it with a half yodel. I've wondered that myself. Still, in the words of Ryan, Rachel strong arms her way to Hollywood.

Now we have a professional lady wrestler, Sara AKA "Lady Morgue". Sara's all goth with black shiny leather raincoat, weird eye makeup, dominatrix boots. A couple of blondes waiting their turn are appalled. Lady Morgue does not make it through.

Ryan and Paula switch places. A really sweet, self-effacing, Samantha Sidley sings I Don't Know Why by Norah Jones. Ryan gives Samantha a hard time, Paula comes back in the room. Samantha gets three yesses and is going on to Hollywood.

After Samantha, we're treated to three short snippets of good auditions. Elizabeth Erkert, Denise Jackson and Michael Sanfilippo all get golden tickets. The heartland is on a roll.

Tonight's sad story is from Anjelica Fuente. She's from Kenosho, Wisconsin and lives with her grandmother. She moved out of her mom and dad's house, because her dad is strict. Maybe American Idol can reunite them. She just wants to make her dad proud. Anjelica sings Celine's Power of Love and it sounds like an impression. Anjelica starts crying because she's really nervous. The judges look past her mediocre audition and move her on to Hollywood. Ryan calls Anjelica's dad and the dad sounds like a normal guy, he tells Anjelica he loves her. There's hope for their relationship

Now we're transitioning to the rock segment. David Cook a bartender/musician from Tulsa is up next. He thinks he brings something different to the table. I can't wait. Living on a Prayer by Bon Jovi is his song and even though I didn't hear anything that different, it was good. All three judges say thumbs up and David's packing his leather jacket for a trip to LA.

Johnny Escamilla is next. He's wearing a cheap gold jacket that looks like it came from his mom's closet. Johnny admits he's one of the weirdest people you'll ever meet. Off camera, Paula lets out what sounds like a shriek, but it was a really loud hiccup. What's in that coke glass, anyway? We know, we know, it's coke. Johnny sings "Shout", making us all want to shout at our televisions. Simon tells poor Johnny he hates everything--the jacket, the dancing, and the singing. Johnny gets a no all the way around. He thanks the judges and leaves quietly.

Another montage of weirdos. This time lots of folks sing "Stuck in the Middle of You."

The final auditioner is Leo Marlowe. Leo sings Danny Hathaway's, A Song for You, and he sounds great. Simon likes him and gives him an absolute yes. Paula gives him the touch down sign. Randy shakes his hand. He's moving on to Hollywood.

Did you notice how pleasant all the contestants were? Even the slightly strange ones like Johnny Escamilla, Lady Morgue, and Chris Bernhisel seemed nice. No one talked back or got obnoxious with the judges. Quite refreshing for American Idol auditions. In all, we'll see 19 people who auditioned in Omaha in Hollywood. I'm going to keep my eye on David Cook, Samantha Sidley, and Leo Marlowe.

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