After Tuesday night's rather listless Chicago auditions, "American Idol" headed to the Sunshine State (or, more specifically, Orlando) on Wednesday (January 20) and boy, were the results different.
While Chicago failed to raise the bar, Orlando positively put it through the ceiling, providing Simon, Randy and Kara — plus guest judge Kristin Chenoweth — with plenty of memorable moments, including some genuinely great voices, a few goofy auditioners and at least one arrest (congratulations, Jarrod Norrell!).
There was Seth Rollins, a 28-year-old raising an autistic son, who wowed the panel with his velvety take on the Gershwin standard "Someone to Watch Over Me"; and Matt Lawrence, who robbed a bank when he was 15, spent four years in jail, then won over the judges with a big, husky version of Ray Lamontagne's "Trouble." "Brilliant," Simon enthused. "You can really, really sing."
And while the guys were good, the girls were even better. Eighteen-year-old Shelby Dressel, who, due to an undeveloped nerve at birth, suffers from partial paralysis of her face, turned in a smoky cover of Norah Jones' "Turn Me On" (and cracked everyone up when she forgot the lyrics and blurted "Holy sh--!"); Janell Wheeler, who impressed with her soulful version of the Animals' "The House of the Rising Sun"; Brittany Starr James, who got through with a brassy take on Estelle's "American Boy"; and Kasi Bedford, who won the panel over with her run at Bonnie Raitt's "Something to Talk About."
There were also more than a few rather, uh, questionable affirmatives doled out by the "Idol" judges. Bernadette and Amanda Disimone, a tanned and teased sister act from New Jersey, got through to Hollywood based mostly on moxie. Cornelius Edwards won everyone over only after ripping his pants while attempting a particularly advanced split ("I've got to say yes after that," Simon chuckled. "I've got to tell you, that was sacrifice.") and Jay Stone, who divided the panel but still grabbed a golden ticket after a sputtering, beatboxed version of the Beatles' "Come Together."
And what "Idol" audition show would be complete without some oddballs? On Wednesday night, we met a glittery, half-shirt-wearing wannabe named Theo Glinton, who covered Pat Benatar's "Heartbreaker" and compared himself to microwaveable leftovers (he did have an assistant, however) and caught glimpses of people dressed as chickens and goblins. And, of course, we got Norrell, who, after being shot down by the judges, refused to leave the audition room, got into a scuffle with security guards, and left the Amway Arena in handcuffs.
All in all, it was a pretty full day. "Idol" handed out 31 golden tickets on Wednesday night and next week takes its roving auditions back home to Los Angeles.
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