The process of weeding "American Idol" contestants down to the top 36 is already fraught with tons of drama, which was heightened this season by the decision to have some of the contestants vying for a coveted spot on the show compete in sing-offs to determine their fate in the semifinals.
But as pressure-packed as Wednesday night's pare-down was, the real fireworks came shortly after the show aired, when Fox announced that former "Annie" Broadway star and one-time professional major label singer Joanna Pacitti, who appeared to make the cut in the pre-taped show, had been disqualified from the competition.
"It has been determined that Joanna Pacitti is ineligible to continue in the competition," read a note on the official "Idol" site, which did not explain why Pacitti was disqualified. "Felicia Barton has replaced Ms. Pacitti as part of the top 36."
Unlike past seasons, producers were up-front from the beginning this year about [news id="1603285"]Pacitti's professional past[/news], and when the judges put her through to the top 36 on Wednesday night's show, they frequently alluded to her up-and-down career tribulations, causing the singer to weep openly. When the judges finally ended the tension and told Pacitti she was through, the singer burst into tears and promised that after forgetting her lyrics several times in the Hollywood rounds, she would make them proud.
According to the Los Angeles Times, an unnamed source close to the show said Pacitti was bounced to "avoid the appearance of impropriety." It has been reported that Pacitti had some close personal relationships to some of the executives at 19 Management, one of he companies that helps produce the show and manages some of the winners.
Though last year's finalists included a number of singers with music-industry ties, several of whom had released albums, Pacitti, 24, drew fire early on this year, thanks to her former deal with Geffen/A&M, which released her debut album, This Crazy Life, in 2006. Several of her songs have appeared on soundtracks, including "Legally Blonde," "First Daughter" and "Bratz," which included her song, "Out From Under," a tune that Britney Spears covered on her Circus album.
At press time, spokespeople for "Idol" were not available to provide further details of Pacitti's disqualification, or to answer questions about whether her ineligibility was determined before Wednesday's show aired.
There were, of course, other emotional high points and some head-scratching decisions on the show, including the semifinal berth for comedian/multiple [article id="1604824"]personality singer Nick "Norman Gentle" Mitchell[/article], who seemed genuinely humbled to be on the show and promised to continue mixing his comedy with singing, as well as the passing through of emotionally unpredictable Tatiana Del Toro.
With Pacitti gone, the top 36 semifinalists looks as follows:
Alexis Grace, Allison Iraheta, Ann Marie Boskovich, Arianna Afsar, Casey Carlson, Felicia Barton, Jackie Tohn, Jasmine Murray, Jeanine Vailes, Jessie Langseth, Kendall Beard, Kristen McNamara, Lil Rounds, Megan Corkrey, Mishavonna Henson, Stevie Wright, Tatiana Nicole Del Toro and Taylor Vaifanua.
Adam Lambert, Alexander Wagner-Trugman, Anoop Desai, Brent Keith, Danny Gokey, Jorge Nunez, Ju'Not Joyner, Kai Kalama, Kris Allen, Matt Breitzke, Matt Giraud, Michael Sarver,
Nathaniel Marshall, Nick Mitchell, Ricky Braddy, Scott Macintyre, Stephen Fowler and Von Smith.
Get your "Idol" fix on MTV News' "American Idol" page, where you'll find all the latest news, interviews and opinions.