There’s quite a bit different about Judge Cuts for America’s Got Talent Season 15. Not only is the round only one episode, but, like the final week of auditions, everything’s virtual.
Judges Simon Cowell, Howie Mandel, Heidi Klum, and Sofia Vergara and host Terry Crews are seated and standing according to social distancing guidelines on an outdoor set in Simi Valley made to look like a drive-in movie theater. It’s up to the judges to decide who will be joining their Golden Buzzers—Voices of Our City Choir (Crews), Roberta Battaglia (Vergara), Cristina Rae (Klum), WAFFLE Crew (Cowell), and Brandon Leake (Mandel)—for the live shows (beginning August 11).
The format of Judge Cuts this year results in a rapid-fire roll-out of yeses and noes for some of the acts. (They have to eliminate nearly half of the 100 acts they put through in auditions.) Those moving on include a number of singers like Celina Graves, Kameron Ross, Kelvin Dukes, and Archie Williams. Also making it through are Malik DOPE Drummer, marionette dancer Noah Epps, aerialist Alan Silva, sword-swallower Brett Loudermilk, stand-up comedian Usama Siddiquee, and novelty singer Bonavega.
But for 10, they must perform again (virtually) for the judges. And only five make it through.
Who’s on the Bubble?
Kid salsa dancers Simon and Maria deliver a performance that Klum, Vergara, and Cowell think is better than their audition. “You kept me smiling,” Mandel says.
Hula hoop act Craig Reid has a self-proclaimed “bigger” and “faster” routine. Mandel says he looked like he was in a giant slinky at one point, which popped and is important at this stage of the competition.
Magician Max Major gets into Cowell’s head this time (after Vergara’s during his audition). Not only does he use the judge’s responses to questions to match photos, but he had also written down those answers prior to the act. After, Cowell promise it was not planned and calls it “one of the most astonishing things” he’s seen.
Singer Shaquira McGrath “absolutely commanded” her performance of “Wake Me Up,” according to Cowell. Vergara adds that her voice is “breath-taking.”
Stand-up comedian Ty Barnett gets laughs from the judges and his socially-distanced garage show with jokes about teaching his kids the value of money. Klum says he’s “very funny” and “likeable,” but Vergara and Cowell liked his first routine more.
Klum and Cowell compare the harmonica duo Brothers Gage‘s cover of “Party Rock Anthem” to a music video.
Singer Nolan Neal performs “You’ve Got the Love,” and Mandel tells him, “you have a great sound in your voice, and it stirs you emotionally.”
Magician Ryan Tricks brings in AGT‘s Alesha Dixon and not only guesses which one of her contacts she’s thinking of but also sends the exact text message—while her phone was locked—with his mind. Klum calls it “mind-blowing,” while Vergara loves how he “commands the stage.”
The dance duo Ninja Twins win over Cowell with “Yummy”—”it was so bonkers, so crazy, I actually liked that”—after he wasn’t a fan during auditions.
Daredevil Jonathan Goodwin, blindfolded with a piece of metal, dodges arrows flying at him from crossbows, catching the last one in his book. “This is one of the nuttiest, craziest, scariest danger acts we’ve had across all the years,” Cowell says.
Who’s Going on to the Live Shows?
The judges put through Simon and Maria, Jonathan Goodwin, Shaquira McGrath, Max Major, and Nolan Neal. Watch their performances below:
America’s Got Talent, Tuesdays, 8/7c, NBC