Vegas is a lot of things to a lot of people. So is America.
Jerry Springer says as much hosting the live version of "America’s Got Talent," a show a lot of people will like and a lot of others would laugh right off the stage.
Springer tells the Planet Hollywood Resort audience that when he first saw the country vocal trio The Texas Tenors, he proclaimed, "This is Vegas."
Then the Tenors come out in their cowboy hats and launch into Alabama’s "Mountain Music."
It’s Vegas all right. Vegas in 1982.
But in the mishmash that is "Talent," the Tenors at least fall on the side of working pros at ease on a stage.
When the moment comes to introduce this year’s big winner, Kentucky singer Kevin Skinner, Springer tells the crowd, "Television can play with you. … You can make anybody look good."
His point, as he later tells Skinner: "You are just the real thing."
But Skinner’s performance backed him up on the first count. On TV, Skinner was the far-country Susan Boyle, his stark rendition of Garth Brooks’ "If Tomorrow Never Comes" just sterling.
Here, with the same stripped-down stool and acoustic guitar, the song was, well, kind of OK. Something you might hear on open-mic night at your local country bar. Better, at least, than a cover of "Sweet Home Alabama" that hung Skinner out to dry, looking very alone as he flailed along to recorded backing tracks.
"People who don’t like you don’t have a heart," Springer informs the winner. Americans are known for their big hearts.
That’s why nearly every act in this fractured variety show is introduced with sentimental back-story video on the giant TV (what else?) that rises up out of the stage like the monolith in "2001."
It was a bad idea to invite reviewers into the show on opening night last week. Producers might have felt the revue was in good shape after cutting 30 minutes from the dress rehearsal.
By the time you read this, it’s sure to be even shorter, likely cutting some of the video bios and Springer banter for the rest of its 10-week run. The trims are needed and even necessary, because people were kept waiting in the lobby while stagehands tried to get "Peepshow," which shares the theater, ready by 9 p.m.
This means future audiences might not get as big a dose of Springer’s weird dual identity. The sincere side of him proclaims "Talent" the multiracial "face of America."
On the other hand, he mocks the America seen on his trash-TV day job: "Being here with a show like this where people are really classy … I didn’t realize women had teeth!"
If you bonded with the "Talent" finalists this season, you might ignore the jarring transitions, such as beautiful opera singer Barbara Padilla singing an aria right after Recycled Percussion pounds on aluminum ladders and prompts the following exchange:
Springer: "How long have you been banging trash?"
Percussion guy: "Not as long as you."
Vegas may be the last bastion of variety, but even variety needs some kind of framework. There were welcome bursts of energy from the trampoline basketball of Acrodunk and hip-hop violin duo Nuttin’ But Stringz, the rare act with a distinct sound and style.
But the weak attempts to weave a cohesive show around all of it rendered the talent ordinary or cliched: Padilla and Texas Tenor Marcus Collins duetting on "All I Ask of You," break dancer Hario Torres dressed like a nerd of the Jerry Lewis/Urkel school, cavorting with sculpted dancers.
The biggest "What the?" moment came with the introduction of 75-year-old comedian Grandma Lee. Two dancers dressed like kids cavorted to the music, "Over the river and through the woods …"
That went on almost as long as Lee’s performance of maybe two minutes. And it was the moment when I started looking around the theater for Piers, Sharon and The Hoff. Because they would have buzzer-gonged those turkeys, and fast.
Contact reporter Mike Weatherford at mweatherford@ reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0288.Review
“America’s Got Talent Live!”
7 p.m. Wednesdays through Fridays and Sundays, 4 and 7 p.m. Saturdays
CHI Showroom at Planet Hollywood Resort, 3667 Las Vegas Blvd. South