Dogs, dinosaurs and a ducky? It’s ‘America’s Got Talent Live!’

Must love dogs? Not exclusively.

You can also love the light-up ducky, the dancing birds or the tiger who fights dinosaurs with a light saber.

But those are puppet illusions. So the only reason why a dinosaur swinging a light saber is not the best part of any show, anywhere, is because it’s real dogs up on their hind legs, waltzing like Fred Astaire.

Then there’s the escape artist, the drummers, the comedian, the artist making rapidly changing pictures out of sand and the guy playing the harp with strings that stretch all the way up to the balcony.

It’s all in one show, and of course that show is "America’s Got Talent Live!" The acts on display at the Palazzo make up a variety show in the purest definition, its cast is determined by the strange tides of viewer voting on the NBC talent show.

All in all, producers count themselves lucky by the cards they were dealt this year.

Unlike 2009, the first time "Talent" tried an extended sit-down on the Strip, none of this year’s finalists is an amateurish performer. And by sheer luck (with perhaps some selectivity in the invitation process) they blend together fairly well.

There are a few jarring transitions, as there are bound to be given the format. The first appearance of the Olate Dogs – the million dollar-winning, small fry-delighting pooches who jump hurdles, shoot down slides and do backflips – is immediately followed by comedian Tom Cotter finding raunchy hidden meaning in Snow White and "Green Eggs and Ham."

The seven dwarves, he explains to youngsters in the audience, appear to be calling Snow White a prostitute when they yell out, "Hi ‘ho!"

But Cotter did much of this material on television, so parents who watched can’t plead ignorance. And if you don’t like one joke, wait a few seconds. It helps explain how a comedian could come in second when you see how many jokes Cotter can fire off in 90 seconds.

It’s also good to have Cotter around when an automated fire alarm shuts the show down, and gives him extra stage time. The live "Talent" hit the ground running, selling tickets for its first show only 13 days after the winner was determined on TV. But even on this press-invited night eight days later, curtains were getting stuck and the false alarm ground things to a temporary halt.

The rush to market may also explain why the show gets off to a fine start but then seems to circle in repetition.

It begins on an ethereal note with William Close on an elevated side stage, hitting a Yanni-like groove on the endless strings of his Earth Harp accompanied from the stage by drums, guitar and a spinning acrobat.

Then, after a video welcome, it’s right into the Lightwire Theater, the joyful animal illusions created by limber ballet dancers in black bodysuits patterned in luminescent wire.

What could follow that, you ask? Try an upside-down straitjacket escape by Spencer Horsman, whose "good evening" marks the first live words spoken onstage, 12 minutes into the show.

There is no traditional host as there was with Jerry Springer in 2009. And Recycled Percussion returns from that year’s lineup not as a house band, but another segment plugged into the rotation, as is Cotter.

The rotation made the second half of the show seem a bit like a do-over. The dogs in particular seemed kind of rationed out – a five or six-minute act broken into shorter segments.

Hints of collaboration – the Recycled drummers joining Close for a rousing version of The Who’s "Love Reign O’er Me" – point to the solution of what this ragtag band of players could gel into if the show sells enough tickets to return in January.

Close could provide the live soundtrack for Lightwire or sand painter Joe Castillo. Recycled could provide the thrilling music for Horsman’s water-tank escape. The dogs could howl when Cotter slips into stock airplane and Irish boozehound jokes.

What was that? You can’t ask the dog to do more than he’s done by riding the scooter? Agreed. Forget that last one. But you get the idea.

Contact reporter Mike Weatherford at mweatherford@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0288.

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