American Idol in Las Vegas becomes Hollywood Week: The Sequel

American Idol took the group performances to Las Vegas, and added a little Elvis. The result? American Idol took it up a notch Thursday night.

Fred Prousee / Reuters
Producer Nigel Lythgoe poses at the American Idol Top 12 party in Los Angeles in 2008. This week, American Idol was in Las Vegas for additional group auditions, one of Lythgoe's post-Simon Cowell changes to the show format.

Well, Hollywood Week didn't fail to deliver its unique brand of heightened emotions and crucial auditions and even if it did, it's OK because they'll do it all again in Las Vegas

This dragging on of the audition rounds leading up to the live shows is one of the post-Simon Cowell tweaks to the show's format.  The wisdom behind adding an additional four hours of group performances seems questionable since America made their preference for solo performances quite evident during"The X-Factor;" the groups struggled to earn audience support and were ultimately the first category voted off.

But American Idol is obviously hoping that loyalty and a fair share of flair will make the viewing audience tolerate what can only be described as too much of a good thing. 

And if the topic is too much of a good thing, what better place to be than Las Vegas?  The contestants who managed to survive Hollywood rounds were instructed to form groups again and then board a bus for the City of Sin.  Once they were safely ensconced in the cheesy glamor that only Las Vegas can provide, group auditions, Part Deux, began.  Sequel wisdom dictates that the only time to make a sequel is if you can improve on the original.  Thursday night, American Idol contestants successfully took it up a notch.

Helping the pace, drama, and the performances, was that the judges had to make another round of cuts at the completion of each group performance in order to get down to 40 contestants.  With so much at stake, most Las Vegas Day 1 contestants embraced their 50's classic music assignment and did the era justice with solid harmonizing, synchronized dance moves, and a heavy dose of 50's inspired-style choices.

Season 10 hopeful Colton Dixon performed with the first group of the night.  You may recall that the judges chose red-headed Brett Loewenstern over Colton Dixon in the final eliminations last season.  Dixon was convinced by the judges to audition for Season 11 when he accompanied his sister, Schuyler to the auditions.  Both siblings made it through but Idol, like a fickle boyfriend, failed to give the Dixons much attention up until Las Vegas.

The tale of sibling rivalry is a tale as old as time and Colton upstaging his sister, Schuyler, in auditions was likely but a chapter in an ongoing Dixon family saga.  You see, despite common parents, there is always one sibling who has that certain je ne sais quoi.  One sibling who, through no fault of her own, ends up with more presents under the Christmas tree. (And really how can anyone fault me  . . . err . . . the child for their parent's blatant favoritism?) Rest assured, it is a tough road for the Colton Dixons who unwillingly outshine their own brood.  And the road got even rockier when Colton was advanced to the next round while Schuyler was sent home.

Las Vegas auditions continued its strings of triumphs: the performances by Reed Grimm, Jessica Sanchez, and Lauren Gray (not to mention the long overdue elimination of Johnny Keyser!) and tragedies: recaps of Judge Jennifer Lopez wearing that horrible gray sweater/bathrobe in Hollywood, the elimination of Angie Zeiderman, watching cowboy Richie Law repeatedly failing to pick up on social cues as he struggles to make a friend.

The night proved heartbreaking for others like teen Gabi Carruba, caretaker Jessica Phillips, and single mom Britnee Kellogg .  It should provide some solace to the fallen to know that the judges were in a tough position.  Out of all the stellar auditions they could only bring 40 through to the next round.  So rest easy, Britnee and others, in the knowledge that if the judges could have kept you they certainly would have.  But their hands were tied as tyrant producers forced them to whittle the contestants down to 40.  No more, no less.

And so, Las Vegas group auditions wrap with 42 contestants making it on to the next round.

Next week the judges continue the eliminations as they reduce the field down to the final 24.  Or maybe 26.  27 if the decisions prove really tough.  But definitely less than 30 . . .

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