By Ann Oldenburg, USA TODAY
Only three spots are open in next week's America's Got Talent finals.
On Tuesday, 12 acts competed for those spots, showing off for host Nick Cannon and judges Howard Stern, Sharon Osbourne and Howie Mandel in a live show from New Jersey.
Kicking things off, Stern expanded on his introductory hello by doing a swooping heart gesture, a Vulcan gesture with his hand, a Three Stooges-type thing with his hands, followed by a throwing motion. "It's like you're casting a spell on me!" said Nick.
Here's how the show unfolded, with performances ranging from "awkward" to "amazing":
1. All That!, the dance troupe of male cloggers from South Carolina, said they were hoping to show off "that wow factor." They performed wearing black vests, fire spewing from the tips of their shoes. The audience liked their number, which ended with all of the guys dancing in trays of water. Sharon liked it. Howie said it was "one-dimensional." Howard thought they "did well," but also said it was "deja vu" - we had seen it all before.
2. Sebastien "El Charro De Oro," 10-year-old mariachi singer who sang New York, New York last time, belted out an opera song in Spanish tonight. His song included a band, two dancers and rose-like confetti falling at the end. "Bravo!" said Nick Cannon. "You are truly amazing," said Howie. "Wearing white after Labor Day - amazing!" Howard said Sebastien was a little off in the mid-range area of his vocals, but said he was an "amazing showman." You are a "Mexican superhero," said Howard. Sharon praised the kid up and down, saying, "You were so fine tonight."
3. The Magic of Puck. Puck made a woman levitate high on the stage, only to reappear in a glass case in the front of the stage - all while an autographed handkerchief with Howard Stern's signature was tied around her wrist. Puck said he intended to do something bigger, and he delivered. The crowd loved it. Howard Stern liked it, too, telling Puck it was "well done." Sharon was even nicer about it: "The whole performance was flawless!" Howie said that he loved the fact that he couldn't figure out how Puck pulled it off. "It was truly a great magic act."
4. Clint Carvahlo & His Extreme Parrots. "Here kitty, kitty," called Clint, bringing his bird flying onto the stage from the back of the auditorium. Kitty the bird (who is 30 years old, by the way) then danced, mailed a letter, flew through hoops held up in the crowd and retrieved a can of soda from Sharon. Said Howie, "I felt like I was in a scene from The Birds." He said it wasn't a million-dollar act. Howard agreed, adding that when Clint says, "'Here, kitty, kitty,' I want to throw up."
5. Comedian Jacob Williams faces tough competition from already-in-the-finals seasoned comic Tom Cotter. Jacob's jokes all fell flat, including the one about using a baby-changing table instead of a urinal in the men's room. His best joke: He's going to follow in George Foreman's steps and name all his kids George Foreman. "I just think it'd be cool if one of them got braces, so they'd have the George Foreman grill." Howie said he'd probably wind up in a sitcom because of his endearing awkwardness, not so much because of his one-liners. Sharon echoed him, saying, "You're just very awkward in a funny way." Howard said he "stumbled. ... This was not your best material. ... I felt you lacked confidence in your own performance tonight."
6. Shanice & Maurice Hayes. Shanice, 18, and Maurice Hayes, 61, are a father-daughter vocal duo from Kansas City, Mo. They belted out Mariah Carey's Anytime You Need A Friend with a full gospel choir behind them. Howard said it didn't showcase Shanice enough. "You have to let her shine a little bit more." Sharon "loved it." Howie echoed Howard, saying, "Shanice is the star." As it is now, "it's kind of like a cheesy cruise act."
7. All Wheel Sports, an acrobatic stunt bike group act from Santa Barbara, Calif., flipped and zipped their way around the stage. One of the bikers wiped out, but was fine. "I applaud you," said Sharon. "It was very entertaining." Howard said he didn't get that "oh, wow" moment. "The mistake was the most exciting part."
8. Tim Hockenberry, a singer from Mill Valley, Calif., did a moving, Joe Cocker-Tom Waits rendition of Imagine. He accompanied himself on the keyboard, with only a cellist adding strings. Howard gave him a standing ovation. "This was great" and "deserves" a place in the finals. Howie said he could listen to Tim "all night long." But Howie said he wasn't original - "that gritty voice we've heard before." Sharon liked the "simplicity" of his performance.
9. The Untouchables. A dance troupe of kids from Miami ages 8 to 14, tangoed and twirled around the floor in a dance routine that would rival anything on Dancing With the Stars. "You have incredible talent," said Howard. One little girl burst into tears because "I'm so happy and I feel like we did amazing and we've been working so hard!" Howie said they were "amazing! Keep crying out of happiness." Sharon loved them, too, praising their technique and their costumes. "Fantastic."
10. Olate Dogs. The dog act from Houston didn't disappoint. The pooches danced a conga line, rode a scooter, did back flips and charmed the audience with their affection for Richard Olate, creator of the act. "They're not animals, they're angels from above," said Sharon. "I've never seen such well-trained dogs. You guys have to be in the finals. I beg America to vote tonight," said Howard. Howie raved, too, saying, "I wanna see you again."
11. Lightwire Theater. The New Orleans group impressed everyone with a tiger-dinosaur light-saber battle. Howie praised their creativity, saying it felt like a "3-D futuristic movie." He said they deserve to win the $1 million. Sharon said, "It is like a 3-D experience. ... It was perfect." Howard said they have originality "in spades." He said, "You guys are captivating ... This is dance and electronics and something fabulous."
12. David Garibaldi and his CMYK's. The artist from Sacramento said art has always been a big part of his life. He and his group, using movement and music as they worked on large panels of art, created a grand Statue of Liberty painting in 90 seconds. "I'm always amazed by what you do," said Howard. Sharon praised his passion and originality. Howie said, "You are not just an entertainer. You are not just an artist. You are a creator."
Which three acts would you send through?