“America’s Got Talent” is one night away from crowning its $1 million champion.
After a “rollercoaster ride” of a season filled with wild cards, rule breaks and sudden departures, “it all comes down to this,” host Terry Crews said during part one of the finale Tuesday. The top 10 acts only have one more opportunity to blow America away.
“This night genuinely can change your life forever,” Simon Cowell said.
Winning the million-dollar cash prize and headlining a Las Vegas show isn’t going to be easy, with all but one of the season’s Golden Buzzers advancing to the finals: Northwell Nurse Choir (Howie Mandel), singer Jimmie Herrod (Sofia Vergara), World Taekwondo Demonstration Team (Crews), quick change artist Léa Kyle (Heidi Klum) and opera singer Victory Brinker (the show’s first-ever group pick).
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The season’s only Golden Buzzer missing from the finale is singer Jane Marczewski, who withdrew from the competition after her battle with cancer “(took) a turn for the worse.” Cowell offered a health update on the Ohio native, whose goes by Nightbirde.
“The great news is she’s doing better” Cowell said. “I know she would have been at the finals tonight. We’re are all sending her our love tonight.”
The other finalists include aerialist Aidan Bryant, magician Dustin Tavella, singer Brooke Simpson, and comedians Gina Brillon and Josh Blue.
Here’s what happened:
After growing up a “really shy kid” with stage fright in Portland, Oregon, the 30-year-old singer highlighted the newfound “confidence” he’s gained throughout the competition during an ethereal rendition of Louis Armstrong’s “What A Wonderful World.”
Vergara stood up to applaud her Golden Buzzer winner before he even finished his closing note, which Cowell called his “big power diva note.” The rest of the judges and the studio audience joined in a standing ovation at Los Angeles’ Dolby Theater.
“I’m so proud of you,” Vergara said. Klum called Herrod her “favorite discovery this season,” adding that he’s “worthy of that million dollars.”
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The 25-year-old from Bourdeau, France took viewers to Paris’ world-renowned Louvre Museum, where she magically swapped outfits with Mona Lisa and other pieces of art. “Every outfit was amazing,” Mandel said.
“I’m not an expert but I genuinely do believe you are the best quick change artist in the world,” Cowell declared. Vergara and Klum agreed, declaring this her “best performance.”
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The 9-year-old opera singer, the show’s first-ever group Golden Buzzer, looked like a princess in a sparkling, butterfly-encrusted gown, with a heavenly voice to match.
“You look like a winner. You sound like a winner. You couldn’t have done anything better,” Klum said after Brinker’s rendition of “O Mio Babbino Caro.” Brinker also made Cowell a believer: “I didn’t have a chance of winning but I think you could win the show after that.”
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The 41-year-old New York native dedicated her act to her parents who worked tirelessly to support her family. During her comedy sketch, Brillion joked about her 4-year wedding anniversary this month, couples therapy and marital spats: “Marriage isn’t easy.”
Mandel took a moment between the laughs to pay tribute to comedian and former “Saturday Night Live” cast member Norm Macdonald, who died on Tuesday following an undisclosed battle with cancer. He was 61 years old.
“One of the greats of comedy passed today,” Mandel said. “It broke my heart, but having you… on the show tonight brings us back and lets us know that laughter is still alive and laughter is the best medicine.”
A comedian has never won “AGT.”
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World Taekwondo Demonstration Team
Crew’s Golden Buzzer may have missed the 2020 Tokyo Olympics due to COVID-19, but the group of martial artists from America and South Korea are close to “AGT” gold following a high-flying, gravity-defying fight sequence in which they smashed over 200 wooden boards and four concrete blocks.
They received a standing ovation and rowdy applause. Klum herself couldn’t stop screaming (“This is so exciting”), and Vergara offered them a deal (“I want to produce your movie”). Mandel called them the “best act of the night.”
Cowell agreed, referring to the group as the “one to beat.” He admitted, “I was getting a bit bored of you and then tonight that was bloody brilliant.”
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The16-year-old aerialist, who taught himself how to fly two years ago through YouTube after watching a Pink concert, promised Tuesday would be the “biggest performance of my life.” He didn’t disappoint. Bryant closed his fiery performance with a jaw-dropping death drop that made Cowell climb on the judges’ desk in a round of applause – literally.
“I don’t think a standing ovation was big enough,” Cowell said after safely climbing back to the floor. “This was one of the best live performances I’ve ever seen.”
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The 30-year-old singer laid it all on the line during a rendition of Bishop Briggs’ “White Flag” with hopes of becoming the first indigenous winner of “AGT.” She commanded the stage with her signature sass and killer vocals.
Mandel described it as “a drop-the-mic moment.” Cowell added, “Every time you come on this stage, you give us every ounce of your talent and soul,”
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The 35-year-old Virginia Beach native combined magic and a universal message for another uplifting act. Tavella asked the audience to write a way they can give back on a piece of paper and throw it at the judges. Each judge selected a crumbled piece of paper and Tavella was able to correctly guess the message.
“You are an amazing storyteller,” Cowell said.
The 42-year-old comedian, who has cerebral palsy, said he’s “in the worst pain of my life” as his body “breaks down faster” than the average body. But “all this pain has led to this moment. It’s time for a comic to win ‘AGT.'”
He engaged in his signature self-deprecating humor about cerebral palsy symptoms, including his “twisty arm,” and Botox originally being created to help people with the condition: “God forbid you have a crow’s foot … isn’t that right, Simon.”
Cowell cried from laughter and wiped tears from his eyes. “Simon said you should be naughtier this time and you delivered,” Klum said.
Northwell Nurse Choir
Mandel’s Golden Buzzer winners, a group of 18 nurses from the largest health care system in New York who fought on the frontline of the COVID-19 pandemic, turned in another poignant performance of Rachel Platten’s “Stand by You” in red scrubs.
“What a way to close the show,” Vergara said. Klum called them “real heroes” and Mandel said he’s going to “stand by you and probably win this… you deserve to win.”
Cowell called the finale performances “a night I’ll never forget. Everyone tonight has been amazing.”
Fans can vote up to 10 times for each act on NBC.com/AGTvote and the “America’s Got Talent” app. The winner of Season 16 will be revealed during Wednesday’s results show (NBC, 9 EDT/PDT).
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