The roaring crowd was more than ready for America's Got Talent to bring on the second dozen quarterfinalist talents dreaming of Las Vegas and very different lives from the New Jersey Performing Arts Center this week. Special and sweet are no longer words that translate to another level for these performers, and according to Howie Mandel, they had to "step it up, or step home." Who proved they could produce magic under pressure?
LionDanceMe were still definitely daring in their costumed acrobatics atop their steel stilts, and this band of brothers onstage still create a vibrant spectacle—this is no playing chopsticks. Despite declaring that this performance was 5 to 10 times more dangerous than any previous display, Howie Mandel said he was "bored," and Sharon Osbourne encouraged the boys to include more martial arts elements, as Howard Stern still credited their courage in defying "metal against skin," but recommended they shed their costumes. Life already has dramatically changed for contortionist dancer Turf, who has stayed in Vegas since the performers' boot camp. As he practically disconnects his full upper torso from his body, his precision is amazing, but his passion makes him remarkable. Howie Mandel joined the audience standing ovation, saying his willingness to "break bones" to bare his soul fired a passion apart from any other act. Sharon commended the combination of guts and talent required to rely on pure performance without gimmicks, while Howard Stern said he should watch out for other dancers who bring dance elements to body breaking moves. Turf was truly the first star of the night. The All Ways have cuteness and charisma, but this quartet who portend to be rockers lack conviction to stand firm to the genre. They attempted Lady Gaga on the dance floor, and the judges dashed their hopes. Howard Stern scolded that they may want it all, but no good band can have it all, and he had no desire to be one of these youngsters tonight. Sharon said the singer was screaming rather than singing the song that was all wrong, and Howie Mandel said he "wanted rock" that he didn't get. They'll need to capture the girls' vote to have a chance.
North Carolina magical couple, Hawley Magic, made a good impression with the Mrs. spinning atop a sword tip before dropping to not-death, but the theatrics were a drawback to their display. Howard Stern said they already had made magic by moving from the basement of their parents, so the votes will tell if America wants more magic from these two. The Lisa Clark Dancers showed great loyalty to their teacher along with their talents, but their routine never wowed the panel. Mrs. Osbourne said their choreography was too cute, with no flash, and their music was too old for such a young group of talents. Howie Mandel gave them his X, but Howard Stern praised that at least they gave it their best. Another act that went too cute and not clever enough was the Aurora Light Painters. Their "monsters under the bed" concept didn't convey well from the stage. Howard Stern had enough with an early X, and Howie Mandel made no sense of the finish with a furry stuffed monster from a box. Sharon Osbourne simply said there was "no sophistication" in this performance. They still have possibilities, and perhaps fit better on Saturday morning public television.
Danielle Stallings definitely rose to her moment this week, looking perfectly precious for her 14 years, and putting perfect emotion to "Everyday It Rains." Sharon Osbourne raved about the Virginia talent's look, voice, and vulnerability, and Howard Stern called her "incredibly memorable." Howie Mandel was too busy gathering her already in-coming Twitter praise to put in his vote! Donovan and Rebecca celebrated Donovan's dad's birthday by a stellar performance, dangling from the single strand of cloth, kissing in midair, and ending in a single hold that held everyone captive, all to the strains of a Snow Patrol hit! Sharon Osbourne said the pair was "seamless" once more, and Howard Stern concurred, calling them "sensational," while Howie Mandel was a sucker for the romance of their kiss! Love is strong for this couple, and they'll be staying awhile. Big Barry added sparkle to his act from the lapel of his suit, but still couldn't carry a note to save him. His ally, Howie Mandel, called him the offspring of "Bob Dylan and the Easter Bunny," but Big's selection still spawned a verbal boxing match between the two Howards, and Stern reacted with scathing words that Barry being there meant that talents like Andrew de Leon and Mary Joyner didn't get the second chance they deserved.
The final trio of talents was sharp as ever, in very different perspectives. Tom Cotter was on fire from the big stage, playing for laughs as he poked fun at favorite sayings. He swept the panel's praise, as Howard Stern called him "the man to beat" for the season, Sharon calling his talents "perfection," and Howie Mandel applauding him as a "true professional" whose time has come. Crossbow master, Ben Blaque, demonstrated his daring in an all new dimension, doing a routine in red and black, even before the "bugs" were worked out, with assistant, Devon's life on the line with a quadruple shoot that made him a shoe in with the panel, and probably America, again. Tim Hockenberry could be the poster boy for new beginnings, and he puts the lessons from his lost moments through every note, even turning Katy Perry's "Part of Me" into his own anthem. Howard Stern called the selection a "misstep," but his co-panelists made him a minority of one, applauding with the crowd. America's Got Talent!